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Forty days before the Triduum, the Lenten season disposes Catechumens and the faithful to celebrate the paschal mystery through prayer and penitential practices.
Peter, Apostle, Pope and Martyr, d. c. 64
Even the great saints need God’s forgiveness and grace. Peter, like the rest of us, turned away from Jesus for a time.
Peter, as Scripture tells us, was a son of John and the brother of Andrew. He was a native of Bethsaida, a small village near Lake Tiberias. With his father and brother, Peter, at that time called Simon, worked as a fisherman on Lake Genesareth.
Through the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, we know much more about Peter than we do about many of the early saints. We know, for example, that Peter was present at the marriage feast at Cana when Jesus worked his first miracle. While Peter and the other Apostles did not immediately give up their professions upon meeting Christ, we know that they became good friends of Christ and would join him any time that he was proclaiming the Good News in their vicinity. Jesus came to Peter's home in Capernaum and cured his mother-in-law and Peter's boat was always available to Christ. Peter, together with James and John, was privileged to witness the Transfiguration of Christ. Later, as we know from Luke’s Gospel today, it was Peter who denied Christ three times in the courtyard of Pontius Pilate.
When Peter acknowledged Jesus as "the Christ...the Son of the living God," Jesus replied, "And I tell you, you are Peter and on this rock I will build my church" and "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." (Mt 16:16-19) Thus was Peter chosen to be the first pope.
Following the Ascension of Jesus into heaven, Peter assumed his role as head of the Church on earth. He was the first apostle to preach to the Gentiles, and was the first of the apostles to perform miracles.
Imprisoned by Herod Agrippa in about the year 43, Peter escaped, guided by an angel. At the assembly in Jerusalem, he proclaimed that Christ wanted the Good News preached to all. This is the last mention of Peter in the New Testament, but very early tradition says that Peter then went to Rome where he became Rome's first bishop. He was crucified in Rome in about 64 during the reign of Nero and was buried on Vatican Hill. Excavations under St. Peter's Basilica in recent years have uncovered what is believed to be his tomb. Bones found in the tomb are still under intensive study.
A feast on February 22 is called the Chair of St. Peter and commemorates Christ handing over the leadership of the Church to St. Peter and his successors. We celebrate the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul on June 29.
Peter's message today: Peter provides a good example of Jesus’ love for us. Peter denied Jesus three times, yet Jesus still loved Peter and did not withhold the position he had promised. Likewise, Jesus loves us and forgives us our sins when ask his forgiveness.