Malankara World Journal Theme: St. Peter and St. Paul
Volume 3 No. 149 June 27, 2013
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
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Our church celebrates June 29 as the feast-days of St. Peter and St. Paul. On July 30, we remember all apostles. This edition of Malankara World Journal focuses on St. Peter.
St. Peter is acknowledged as the first among equals among Jesus Christ's disciples. St. Leo the Great explains why:
I like St. Peter. He was just like any of us. We can all identify with him. He was human, sensitive and emotional. He never had any problem expressing his opinions or thoughts. (Sometimes he talked too much just like many of us.) Peter was a humble man; he was also a humbled man just like St. Paul.
We often point out in MW Journal that God picks ordinary people to do extraordinary things. Most of us wonder why Jesus Christ picked the apostles for this critical task. They had no prior experience or knowledge; they fumbled from one situation to another. Anyone other than Jesus would have fired them long ago from the job.
St. Augustine explained why:
Otto Hophan, O.F.M. Cap. in his book "The Apostles" explains this further:
Everything about Peter was plain and simple - with the exception of his divine mission. As a fisherman, he was not great hero of world-wide importance, no masterful genius who advanced to great height. Ancient pictures show Peter with an ordinary man of the street. One wonders why this un-influential man was called to full such an influential and extraordinary office.
Undoubtedly this unadorned picture of simplicity has its golden side too. If one pays close attention to this picture of St Peter in the Gospels, he will be completely captivated by the magic of his unfeigned sincerity and cordiality, by his purity of intention. After the miraculous catch of fish, how quickly and willingly he poured out his soul before the Lord, with unconcealed sealed astonishment, with bare humility; "'Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.'" And still he himself did not forget to mention some of the complimentary words of our Lord to him, which Mark-who wrote down Peter's words-recorded for all posterity, as did the other evangelists. To the very depths of his soul Peter was a simple, unpretentious, pure person.
Does the reason behind our Lord's seemingly unwise choice perhaps lie in the fact that Christ Himself laid down the essential criterion for leadership: "'Let him who is greatest among you become as the youngest, and him who is the chief as the servant'"? Simon had to be at once great and small, the first and the last. Peter had a balanced character, a straightforward nature, as a defense against the severe temptations of self-praise- a praise which the Lord wanted him to have. In this ordinary man our Lord pointed out the directions He wanted this important and difficult office to take, lest it deteriorate into sheer pretentiousness, lest it become as meaningless as a piece of blank paper, let it lose sight of reality and become entangled in theories and problems.
Don't you love this man? Our Holy Father, Patriarch, sits on the throne of this humble fisherman picked by Jesus Christ to lead the church.
Pope Benedict XVI observed:
We can learn quite a lot from the example of St. Peter. St. Leo the Great explains:
The Gospel tells us that at least once, Jesus called Peter a "Satan" because he was not thinking as God but as a human being. This tells us indirectly that human beings have the power of the Holy Spirit that Jesus promised to guide our thinking and reasoning process and that it's very easy to be misled especially when we misunderstand the role of the suffering Messiah's mission from our heavenly Father.
Peter had to learn much about forgiveness, without any limits, and humility, as all Christians must, if they are to extend the Church of God as Peter did. This requires not mere human knowledge but divine knowledge.
We learn from St Peter's epistles in the New Testament that human beings need to be sober and vigilant because, in addition to the weakness of human nature and worldly concerns, we have an opponent, the Devil, who roams abound like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.
Peter's wise advice for all with no exception is to be thoughtful, caring and prayerful. This requires one to be obedient, humble and act as a servant toward all human beings and the Church. It has been purchased for us by the suffering servant, Jesus Christ, the Redeemer and Savior of the human race by His achieving His Father's will, but it requires our cooperation and goodwill.
St. Peter and St. Paul occupies important positions in our church. They played different roles, however. Peter's name always heads the list of names of the apostles. There is no doubt who is the leader of the group. St. Paul would always have a leading position in the Church through his writings, example and missionary work. But Peter is the foundation and the rock of the Church with full authority, leadership and primacy.
The Lord built his church upon the rock of Peter's faith. He placed us within the faith that never falters - the faith we inherited through St. Peter.
The Lord has given us knowledge of the faith through the missionary work and preaching of St Paul. May his example inspire us to lead others to Christ (evangelize) by the manner of how we live.
May the keys of Peter, and the words of Paul, their undying witness and their prayers, lead us to the joy of that eternal home which Peter gained by his cross and Paul by the sword.
Dr. Jacob Mathew
This Sunday in Church
Feast of the Twelve Apostles
Other Bible Readings For This Week:
Saturday, June 29 id the feast day for St. Peter and St. Paul. The bible readings for this day can be found here:
Sunday, June 30 is also the 6th Sunday Following Pentecost. The Lectionary Reading is:
Sunday, June 30 is the 12 Apostles' Feast Day. Sermons for this Sunday can be found at:
Alternatively, you can also offer the sermon based on lectionary for 6th Sunday after Pentecost. You can find sermons here:
This Week's Features
One of God's biggest frustrations must be how lightly some of us interpret the Bible, thinking of His Word as merely a storybook filled with moral lessons to follow and teach our kids. Obey your parents. Do unto others. Turn the other cheek. The Bible, however, is filled with stories of how God, through one person, made the impossible happen. And He wants to do the same thing through us.
It's time for us to live out our lives like we believe God's Word with all our heart, soul, and mind. We must study and apply His promises every day. We must use the Bible as a guide to living the abundant life He has intended for us. God may not duplicate the same biblical miracles we read about, but He can and does perform new ones.
I believe there is no limit to what God will do to save His children. There is no prayer so great that He cannot answer it. There is no injustice so overpowering that He cannot put it right. God can bring healing to our souls and our bodies.
-- Caroline Barnett (excerpted from Willing to Walk on Water: Step Out in Faith and Let God Work Miracles through Your Life)
At one time a question arose in the young Church concerning the admission of Gentiles into the ranks of Christianity. Thus began what has often been called the "conflict at Antioch," a conflict with a long and painful history. It is profoundly symbolic that Peter had to suffer for the growth of the young Christian community and its formation into the universal Church. This was the cross of the first pontiff.
With the baptism of the first Gentile, Cornelius, Peter had made a great decision: the Gentiles as well as the Chosen People had a place in the kingdom of God.
"You know it is not permissible for a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; but God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean...Can anyone refuse the water to baptize these, seeing that they have received the Holy Spirit just as we did?" And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.
This far-reaching decision only too soon brought this criticism and reproach of the Jews down upon the leader of the apostles, but he remained firm in his decision.
In this instance Peter used his authority with tact and discretion. His words were not loud and sharp; he did not thunder and bluster, "Sic volo, sic jubeo, stet pro ratione voluntas!" rather he "began to explain the matter to them in order." It was an understanding but firm Peter who justified this practice so difficult for all to comprehend. He explained,
This conflict, the question of whether a Gentile cold be a Christian, flared up a second time. The same circle of narrow-minded Christian Jews insisted on teaching : "'Unless you be circumcised after the manner of Moses, you cannot be saved."" Strongly opposed to this doctrine, Paul and Barnabas tied to check it with all the apostolic power and vigor they had. This unsolved question was brought up at the council of the apostles in Jerusalem in the year 49. The atmosphere tingled with excitement. Discussions were long and forceful, for the question was a weighty one, and the answer would affect the Christian world for ages to come.
The apostles and presbyters debated. Again Peter was there, no longer a soldier wielding a sword but a leader who was prudent and discreet, thoughtful and considerate. He finally stood up to give a decision on the question, and it was made in favor of the Gentile Christians:
But this first Church Council had not settled the issue for all time. There was more to the problem, and soon the gaps and loopholes begin to appear, and to widen. In his Epistles to the Galatians, St. Paul added a further note. The council had made no clarification about the practice of the Jewish Christians adhering to the Covenant of the Old Testament. There had seemed to be no immediate necessity to make such a clarification. The Jewish Christians faithfully held on to the Old Law, and this set them apart from the converted Gentiles. Naturally, this led to tension and trouble where the two lived side by side. And Peter found himself between the two.
Soon after the apostles had returned from the meeting in Jerusalem, Peter set out for Antioch, and there, unafraid, he cared for the Gentiles, even eating with them. But in his Epistle St. Paul reproved Peter,
For before certain person came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, be began to withdraw and to separate himself, fearing the circumcised.
This was a weakness of Peter.
But was this really weakness? After all, the good apostle found himself in a difficult position, caught between the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians. If he ate with the Gentiles, he alienated himself from the Jews. If he sat at the table with the Jews, he hurt the Gentiles. Already twice he had settle disputes in favor of the Gentiles. So was it not only human and pardonable if this third time he made just one concession the Jews? Anyway, was the matter not unimportant, an ordinary, day-to-day problem, or a mere misunderstanding?
Paul's sharp eyes, however, certainly say deeper into the question. He made it clear that Peter was not to accept the Gentiles one day and then exclude them the next. As it was, Peter considered them only as second-class Christians. Despite the fact they were promised freedom from the laws of the Jews, they were obliged to change their way of life to the Jewish mode of living if they wanted to be included in Peter's circle of friends when the Jews were present. This, however, was a deadly danger, which could have been fatal for the entire mission of converting the Gentiles. It was betrayal of the very being of Christianity, the existence of which was not sustained by the letter of the Jewish law printed on paper, but by the shedding of the blood of Christ crucified.
Already the example of Peter had left a dangerous crevice in the rock-like friendship of the Christians at Antioch. Along with Peter other Christian Jews withdrew from the Gentiles circles; and even Barnabas, a disciple from the ranks of the Gentiles, left his own. Provoked at this situation, Paul wrote, in the Epistle to the Galatians,
It would be difficult to erase this sharp and bitter statement or to soften this hard and swift blow. But what harm can it do to realize that Peter and Paul were only human? Actually Paul was right. Had St. Paul not intervened, Peter's actions would have caused a disaster: the Christian Jews might have gone back to Judaism and the converting of the Gentiles would have been halted. Paul dared not be silent. He had to remove the impending danger. Nevertheless, one could also be of the opinion that Paul might have spoken in a more conciliatory tone-fortiter in re, suaviter in modo-firmly, but gently. However, Paul was always firm in his intentions and just as firm in his actions, full of energy and vigor.
In the heat of this ordeal the gold of Peter's character shone forth. Humbly he accepted Paul's sharp, public censure. He did not seek refuge behind his authority. He did not try to excuse or justify himself, nor did he dispute with Paul. This passage in Galatians shows that Paul won a complete victory in this mater of the difference between himself and Peter. The rebuked apostle did not retort. And shortly thereafter, in the closing of his second Epistle, St. Peter wrote "our most dear brother Paul." These are almost the very last words of Simon Peter that have been recorded.
How noticeable is the change in this son of Jona from the first of the Gospels to the last of the Epistles! Only his simplicity was consistent throughout, and this simplicity is the beautiful ornament of his authority, which he exercised so humbly that he endured much criticism and censure. He neither feared his task nor avoided his duty. Truly St. Peter's humility is no less worthy of admiration than St. Paul's frankness.
The convert from Tarsus, however, did not leave the scene proud and boasting. His friendly ties with the fisherman from Bethsaida remained firm. This incident at Antioch has certainly occasioned too much talk and imagination. There are even those who would interpret Paul's remark as evidence and proof against the primacy of Peter. They see in this conflict the expression and explosion of two opposing tendencies in the early Church. And soon they are speaking of "Peterism," and then "Paulism." Others attempt to maintain that the conflict between Peter and Simon the magician, in Samaria and later in Rome, is merely a camouflage of the conflict between Peter and Paul. The Bible itself refutes such an interpretation.
The same Epistle to the Galatians which reports this conflict between the two apostles also testifies to Paul's recognition and acceptance of the authority of Peter. He acknowledged that he must go to Jerusalem to see Cephas, and he stayed with him for fifteen days. He classed Cephas among "the men of authority" from whom he received the sanction of this mission to preach to the Gentiles. And the incident itself at Antioch is much more a proof for the prominent position of Peter in the first years of the Church than it is against it. It was precisely because St. Paul knew and understood and recognized Peter's position that he demanded from him so impetuously and pitilessly an immediate end to his current course of action.
St. Paul did not oppose the authority of Peter, but rather the dangerous way in which this leader of the Church was handling that authority. He did not want dissension in the Church; he wanted unity and friendship between the Gentiles and this "man of stone" on whom the Lord had founded His Church. No one could have been more opposed to Petrine and Paulistic factions with the Church than St. Paul himself. When he was reforming the various factions in the Christian community of Corinth="I am of Paul," or "I am of Apollos," or "I am of Cephas," or "I am of Christ"-St. Paul wrote to them,
The liturgy and Christian art from the first century down to the present day emphasize the friendship between Peter and Paul. In a sermon St. John Chrysostom called the two "the apostle team." Ancient pictures depict them as brothers, and in pictures of the Twelve painted since the third century they occupy the places of honor of the immediate right and left of the Lord. In the liturgy their feast is celebrated on the day of their death, June 29. However, because of the great distance between the two churches of St Peter and St. Paul in Rome and the difficulties of holding services in both on the same day, the feast was divided, and June 30 was made the day on which to honor St. Paul (by the Catholic church).
Whenever St. Peter is named on the liturgical calendar, St. Paul is also mentioned. It may be that art and the liturgy have drawn from legend, especially from the "Acts of Peter" and the "Acts of Paul," which originated between the years 170 and 250. These legends go far beyond the personal friendship of Peter and Paul. The two supposedly became contemporaries in Rome with joint responsibility in one mission; they were confined in the same prison and underwent the same punishment; they suffered a common death on the same day. Poetic fantasy is the only authority for these legends, but nevertheless they would not have arisen had not a truly sincere friendship existed between the two apostles or had there been a constant friction between them.
It is the evangelist Luke who unites Peter and Paul as brothers in the first and second parts of the Acts of the Apostles. The Acts is the first complete picture we have of Peter and Paul together. In spite of the day at Antioch, they were not opponents. They were neither rivals nor enemies, but rather two rays from the one divine Sun. They were one voice with two echoes, preaching the one divine Word over the mountains and valleys of the earth. Christ was one in both, and both were once in Christ. To Him, all in one and one in all, be honor and glory!
Excerpted from: "The Apostles" by Otto Hophan, O.F.M. Cap.
by Pope Benedict XVI
Dear brothers and sisters, in the new series of catecheses, we have tried above all to understand better what the Church is and what idea the Lord has about this new family of his. Then we said that the Church exists in people, and we have seen that the Lord entrusted this new reality, the Church, to the Twelve Apostles. Let us now look at them one by one, to understand through these people what it means to experience the Church and what it means to follow Jesus. We begin with St Peter.
After Jesus, Peter is the figure best known and most frequently cited in the New Testament writings: he is mentioned 154 times with the nickname of Pétros, "rock", which is the Greek translation of the Aramaic name Jesus gave him directly: Cephas, attested to nine times, especially in Paul's Letters; then the frequently occurring name Simon (75 times) must be added; this is a hellenization of his original Hebrew name "Symeon" (twice: Acts 15:14; II Peter 1:1).
Son of John (cf. John 1:42) or, in the Aramaic form, "Bar-Jona, son of Jona" (cf. Matthew 16:17), Simon was from Bethsaida (cf. John 1:44), a little town to the east of the Sea of Galilee, from which Philip also came and of course, Andrew, the brother of Simon.
He spoke with a Galilean accent. Like his brother, he too was a fisherman: with the family of Zebedee, the father of James and John, he ran a small fishing business on the Lake of Gennesaret (cf. Luke 5:10). Thus, he must have been reasonably well-off and was motivated by a sincere interest in religion, by a desire for God - he wanted God to intervene in the world -, a desire that impelled him to go with his brother as far as Judea to hear the preaching of John the Baptist (John 1:35-42).
He was a believing and practising Jew who trusted in the active presence of God in his people's history and grieved not to see God's powerful action in the events he was witnessing at that time. He was married and his mother-in-law, whom Jesus was one day to heal, lived in the city of Capernaum, in the house where Simon also stayed when he was in that town (cf. Matthew 8:14ff.; Mark 1:29ff.; Luke 4:38ff.).
Recent archaeological excavations have brought to light, beneath the octagonal mosaic paving of a small Byzantine church, the remains of a more ancient church built in that house, as the graffiti with invocations to Peter testify.
The Gospels tell us that Peter was one of the first four disciples of the Nazarene (cf. Luke 5:1-11), to whom a fifth was added, complying with the custom of every Rabbi to have five disciples (cf. Luke 5:27: called Levi). When Jesus went from five disciples to 12 (cf. Luke 9:1-6), the newness of his mission became evident: he was not one of the numerous rabbis but had come to gather together the eschatological Israel, symbolized by the number 12, the number of the tribes of Israel.
Simon appears in the Gospels with a determined and impulsive character: he is ready to assert his own opinions even with force (remember him using the sword in the Garden of Olives: cf. John 18:10ff.). At the same time he is also ingenuous and fearful, yet he is honest, to the point of the most sincere repentance (cf. Matthew 26:75).
The Gospels enable us to follow Peter step by step on his spiritual journey. The starting point was Jesus' call. It happened on an ordinary day while Peter was busy with his fisherman's tasks. Jesus was at the Lake of Gennesaret and crowds had gathered around him to listen to him. The size of his audience created a certain discomfort. The Teacher saw two boats moored by the shore; the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets. He then asked permission to board the boat, which was Simon's, and requested him to put out a little from the land. Sitting on that improvised seat, he began to teach the crowds from the boat (cf. Luke 5: 1-3). Thus, the boat of Peter becomes the chair of Jesus.
When he had finished speaking he said to Simon: "Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch". And Simon answered, "Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets" (Luke 5:4-5). Jesus, a carpenter, was not a skilled fisherman: yet Simon the fisherman trusted this Rabbi, who did not give him answers but required him to trust him.
His reaction to the miraculous catch showed his amazement and fear: "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord" (Luke 5:8). Jesus replied by inviting him to trust and to be open to a project that would surpass all his expectations. "Do not be afraid; henceforth, you will be catching men" (Luke 5:10). Peter could not yet imagine that one day he would arrive in Rome and that here he would be a "fisher of men" for the Lord. He accepted this surprising call, he let himself be involved in this great adventure: he was generous; he recognized his limits but believed in the one who was calling him and followed the dream of his heart. He said "yes", a courageous and generous "yes", and became a disciple of Jesus.
Peter was to live another important moment of his spiritual journey near Caesarea Philippi when Jesus asked the disciples a precise question: "Who do men say that I am?" (Mark 8:27). But for Jesus hearsay did not suffice. He wanted from those who had agreed to be personally involved with him a personal statement of their position. Consequently, he insisted: "But who do you say that I am?" (Mark 8:29).
It was Peter who answered on behalf of the others: "You are the Christ", that is, the Messiah. Peter's answer, which was not revealed to him by "flesh and blood" but was given to him by the Father who is in heaven (cf. Matthew 16:17), contains as in a seed the future confession of faith of the Church. However, Peter had not yet understood the profound content of Jesus' Messianic mission, the new meaning of this word: Messiah.
He demonstrates this a little later, inferring that the Messiah whom he is following in his dreams is very different from God's true plan. He was shocked by the Lord's announcement of the Passion and protested, prompting a lively reaction from Jesus (cf. Mark 8:32-33).
Peter wanted as Messiah a "divine man" who would fulfil the expectations of the people by imposing his power upon them all: we would also like the Lord to impose his power and transform the world instantly. Jesus presented himself as a "human God", the Servant of God, who turned the crowd's expectations upside-down by taking a path of humility and suffering.
This is the great alternative that we must learn over and over again: to give priority to our own expectations, rejecting Jesus, or to accept Jesus in the truth of his mission and set aside all too human expectations.
Peter, impulsive as he was, did not hesitate to take Jesus aside and rebuke him. Jesus' answer demolished all his false expectations, calling him to conversion and to follow him: "Get behind me, Satan! For you are not on the side of God, but of men" (Mark 8:33). It is not for you to show me the way; I take my own way and you should follow me.
Peter thus learned what following Jesus truly means. It was his second call, similar to Abraham's in Genesis 22, after that in Genesis 12: "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the Gospel's will save it" (Mark 8:34-35). This is the demanding rule of the following of Christ: one must be able, if necessary, to give up the whole world to save the true values, to save the soul, to save the presence of God in the world (cf. Mark 8:36-37). And though with difficulty, Peter accepted the invitation and continued his life in the Master's footsteps.
And it seems to me that these conversions of St Peter on different occasions, and his whole figure, are a great consolation and a great lesson for us. We too have a desire for God, we too want to be generous, but we too expect God to be strong in the world and to transform the world on the spot, according to our ideas and the needs that we perceive.
God chooses a different way. God chooses the way of the transformation of hearts in suffering and in humility. And we, like Peter, must convert, over and over again. We must follow Jesus and not go before him: it is he who shows us the way.
So it is that Peter tells us: You think you have the recipe and that it is up to you to transform Christianity, but it is the Lord who knows the way. It is the Lord who says to me, who says to you: follow me! And we must have the courage and humility to follow Jesus, because he is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Delivered on May 17, 2006
by Pope Benedict XVI
Dear brothers and sisters, in these catecheses we are meditating on the Church. We have said that the Church lives in people and because of this, in the last catechesis, we began to meditate on the figure of the individual apostles, beginning with St. Peter. We saw two decisive stages of his life: the calling on the Lake of Galilee and then the confession of faith: "You are the Christ, the Messiah." A confession, we said, that is still insufficient, initial though open.
St. Peter undertakes a journey of following. Thus, this initial confession already bears in itself, like a seed, the future faith of the Church. Today we wish to consider two other events in the life of St. Peter: the multiplication of the loaves, and then the passage when the Lord calls Peter to be shepherd of the universal Church.
We begin with the event of the multiplication of loaves. You know that the people had heard the Lord for hours. At the end, Jesus said: They are tired, they are hungry, we must give these people something to eat. The apostles asked him: But how? And Andrew, Peter's brother, calls Jesus' attention to a boy who was carrying five loaves and two fish. But of what use are these for so many people? the apostles wondered.
Then the Lord had the people sit down and had the five loaves and two fish distributed. And all were filled. What is more, the Lord asked the apostles, and among them Peter, to gather the abundant leftovers: 12 baskets of bread (cf. John 12-13). Then the people, seeing this miracle – which seemed to be the much-awaited renewal of the new "manna," the gift of bread from heaven – want to make him their king.
But Jesus did not accept and withdrew to the mountain to pray alone. The following day, on the other side of the lake, in the synagogue of Capernaum, Jesus interpreted the miracle – not in the sense of kingship over Israel with a power of this world in the manner expected by the crowd, but in the sense of gift of self: "The bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh" (John 6:51). Jesus announces the cross and with the cross the true multiplication of loaves, of the Eucharistic bread -- his absolutely new way of being king, a way totally contrary to the people's expectations.
We can understand that these words of the Master – who did not want to carry out a multiplication of loaves every day, who did not want to offer Israel a power of this world – were truly difficult, even unacceptable, for the people. "Gives his flesh" – what does this mean? And even for the disciples, what Jesus said at this moment seemed unacceptable. It was and is for our heart, for our mentality, a "hard" saying that puts faith to the test (cf. John 6:60). Many of the disciples withdrew. They wanted someone who would really renew the state of Israel, its people, and not someone who said: "I give my flesh."
We can imagine that Jesus' words were difficult also for Peter, who at Caesarea Philippi was opposed to the prophecy of the cross. And yet, when Jesus asked the Twelve: "Do you also want to go away?", Peter reacted with the outburst of his generous heart, guided by the Holy Spirit. In the name of all he responds with immortal words, which are also our words: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God" (cf. John 6:66-69).
Here, as in Caesarea, Peter initiates with his words the confession of the Church's Christological faith and also becomes the voice of the other apostles and of us believers of all times. This does not mean that he had understood the mystery of Christ in all its profundity. His was still an initial faith, a journeying faith. It would come to true fullness only through the experience of the paschal events.
But, nevertheless, it was already faith, open to a greater reality – open above all because it was not faith in something, but faith in Someone: in him, Christ. Thus our faith is also an initial faith and we must still journey a long way. However, it is essential that it be an open faith that lets itself be guided by Jesus, because not only does he know the way, but he is the way.
Peter's impetuous generosity does not safeguard him, however, from the risks connected to human weakness. It is what we can also recognize based on our lives. Peter followed Jesus with drive; he surmounted the test of faith, abandoning himself to him. But the moment comes when he also gives way to fear and falls: He betrays the Master (cf. Mark 14:66-72). The school of faith is not a triumphal march, but a journey strewn with sufferings and love, trials and faithfulness to be renewed every day.
Peter, who had promised absolute faithfulness, knows the bitterness and humiliation of denial: The arrogant learns humility at his expense. Peter, too, must learn that he is weak and in need of forgiveness. When the mask finally falls and he understands the truth of his weak heart of a believing sinner, he breaks out in liberating tears of repentance. After this weeping, he is now ready for his mission.
On a spring morning, this mission would be entrusted to him by the risen Jesus. The meeting would take place on the shores of the Lake of Tiberias. It is the Evangelist John who refers to the dialogue that took place in that circumstance between Jesus and Peter. One notes a very significant play of words. In Greek the word "filéo" expresses the love of friendship, tender but not total, whereas the word "agapáo" means love without reservations, total and unconditional.
Jesus asks Peter the first time: "Simon … do you love me ('agapâs-me')" with this total and unconditional love (cf. John 21:15)? Before the experience of the betrayal, the apostle would certainly have said: "I love you ('agapô-se') unconditionally." Now that he has known the bitter sadness of infidelity, the tragedy of his own weakness, he says with humility: "Lord, I love you ('filô-se')," that is, "I love you with my poor human love." Christ insists: "Simon, do you love me with this total love that I want?" And Peter repeats the answer of his humble human love: "Kyrie, filô-se," "Lord, I love you as I know how to love."
The third time Jesus only says to Simon: "Fileîs-me?", "Do you love me?" Simon understood that for Jesus his poor love, the only one he is capable of, is enough, and yet he is saddened that the Lord had to say it to him in this way. Therefore, he answered: "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you ('filô-se')."
It would seem that Jesus adapted himself to Peter, rather than Peter to Jesus! It is precisely this divine adaptation that gives hope to the disciple, who has known the suffering of infidelity. From here trust is born that makes him able to follow to the end: "This he said to show by what death he was to glorify God. And after this he said to him, 'Follow me'" (John 21:19).
From that moment, Peter "followed" the Master with the precise awareness of his own frailty; but this awareness did not discourage him. He knew in fact that he could count on the presence of the Risen One beside him. From the ingenuous enthusiasm of the initial adherence, passing through the painful experience of denial and the tears of conversion, Peter came to entrust himself to that Jesus who adapted himself to his poor capacity to love. And he also shows us the way, despite all our weakness.
We know that Jesus adapts himself to our weakness. We follow him, with our poor capacity to love and we know that Jesus is good and he accepts us. It was a long journey for Peter that made him a trustworthy witness, "rock" of the Church, being constantly open to the action of the Spirit of Jesus. Peter would present himself as "witness of the sufferings of Christ and participant of the glory that must manifest itself" (1 Peter 5:1).
When he wrote these words he was already old, having reached the end of his life, which he would seal with martyrdom. He was now able to describe the true joy and to indicate where the latter can be attained: The source is Christ believed and loved with our weak but sincere faith, notwithstanding our frailty. That is why he would write the Christians of his community, and he says it also to us: "Without having seen him you love him; though you do not now see him you believe in him and rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy. As the outcome of your faith you obtain the salvation of your souls" (1 Peter 1:8-9).
Delivered on May 24, 2006
by Rev. John Jay Hughes
On the ancient Appian Way south of Rome, there is a small church with a Latin name: Domine quo vadis ("Lord, where are you going?"). It commemorates a legend beloved of preachers since St. Ambrose, who used it in a sermon in the Milan cathedral. The legend says that during the persecution of Christians by the Emperor Nero in 64, Peter fled Rome. As he hurried along under the cover of darkness, he encountered a man walking in the opposite direction.
"Where are you going?" Peter asked.
"I am going to Rome," the traveler replied, "to be crucified afresh."
Peter recognized the voice at once. It was Jesus, returning to suffer death again, because His followers were suffering there. Conscience-stricken, Peter turned back toward the city, whereupon his companion vanished. When Nero's officials arrested him the next day, Peter insisted that they crucify him upside down. He wanted to die like his Master, but felt unworthy to do so in just the same way.
The popularity of this legend is understandable. It goes straight to the heart: to the weakness that is in each of us, but also to our longing for one last chance to live up to the highest and best within us.
The man whose weakness and loyalty the story illustrates was born in Bethsaida, a fishing town on the east bank of the Jordan River just above the Sea of Galilee. His father, Jonah (in English, John), was a fisherman who had named his son Simon. Together with his brother Andrew, Simon became a fisherman like his father. Luke's Gospel tells us that the brothers shared the fishing business with Zebedee and his two sons, James and John (Lk 5:10). Simon was married, and his mother-in-law, whom the Gospels tell us was cured one day by Jesus, lived in Capernaum.
Modern excavations at Capernaum have discovered fish hooks and remains of a small ancient church with graffiti invocations of Peter. Luke's Gospel tells us that Simon and Andrew, with their partners James and John, were the first four disciples of Jesus. In keeping with the custom of the day, according to which a Jewish rabbi had five disciples, Jesus soon called a fifth, Levi, know to us as Matthew.
The Gospels show us two sides of Peter. He could be impulsive and hot-tempered, but also fearful. Peter used a sword to cut off the ear of one of those who came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Olives. Peter boasted that though all others might betray the Lord, he would never do so -- only to deny, within hours, that he even knew Jesus. Moments later he shed bitter tears of repentance at his weakness.
Peter's spiritual journey starts on a day when he is busy fishing with his partners. Jesus appears with a large crowd and asks to borrow Peter's boat, from which Jesus could preach and be seen and heard on the shore. When Jesus finishes speaking, He invites Peter to put out into the deep water and let down his net for a catch. Peter knew it was futile; he and his partners had been hard at it all night and caught nothing. Peter still did not know Jesus, but something about this man made it impossible for Peter to refuse Him. We know the sequel: a catch so large that the net was in danger of breaking, and they had to call to their partners in the other boat to come and help them.
Peter's reaction was that of everyone in Holy Scripture who encounters the Lord: a sense of his own unworthiness. Throwing himself down at the feet of Jesus, with the fish flopping all around him in the boat, Peter blurts out: "Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man." Jesus tells Peter that he is being called to something far greater that this unexpected catch of fish: "I will make you a fisher of men." With his partners, Peter leaves his boat -- his livelihood -- and becomes Christ's disciple.
The next stage on Peter's spiritual journey comes when Jesus asks His disciples: "Who do men say that I am?" They reply: "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." Not satisfied with this general answer, Jesus asks another question: "Who do you say that I am?" Peter answers in the name of all: "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." Jesus responds by giving Simon a new name: Peter. In Jesus' Aramaic language, "Peter" means "rock." Calling this impulsive man "Rock" was something like calling a 300-pound heavyweight "Slim." St. Augustine says that the rock on which Jesus said He would build His Church was not Peter himself, but Peter's faith.
Peter's concept of the Messiah was common among Jews of his day: a person of might and power who would oust the hated Roman occupiers in Palestine and inaugurate an age of peace and prosperity. But Jesus' role, as He explained it, was radically different. Hence, He tells Peter and the other disciples they must not publicize His true identity -- that would raise false expectations. He was headed not for worldly success but for death at the hands of the leaders of His own people. Peter, impulsive as always, protests loudly: "God forbid that any such thing ever happen to you!" Jesus rebukes Peter harshly: "Get out of my sight, you Satan! You are trying to make me trip and fall. You are not judging by God's standards but by man's."
Pope Benedict XVI comments on this scene:
Benedict calls this Peter's second call. Like Peter, we "expect God to be strong in the world," the pope says, and that he transform the world immediately, according to our ideas and the needs we see. God opts for another way. God chooses the way of the transformation of hearts in suffering and humility. And we, like Peter, must always be converted again. We must follow Jesus and not precede him . . . . And we must have the courage and humility to follow Jesus, as he is: the way, the truth, and the life.
We all know the story of Peter's betrayal of the Lord the night before He died. Jesus predicts this at the Last Supper, but Peter protests at once: "Even if I have to die with you, I will not deny you" (Mk 14:31). Within hours, Peter would stand by a fire and three times deny that he even knew the Lord. Luke says that after this third denial, "the Lord turned and looked at Peter. [And] Peter went out and wept bitterly." It was an instance of utter and abject failure. Peter never forgot it.
Peter's failure and his tears of repentance immediately thereafter are the background for our understanding of what Benedict calls Peter's third call, which comes after Jesus' resurrection. Peter and his companions have gone back to their old trade of fishing. Once again, they work hard all night and catch nothing. At dawn they see a man standing on shore. "Have you caught anything?" the man calls out. The question is one that expects the answer "no": "You haven't caught anything, have you?" Jesus was having fun with them. Not once in the Gospels is there any record of Peter and his friends catching a single fish without Jesus' help.
"Cast your net on the starboard side," Jesus calls out, "and you will find something." They do so, and instantly the net is so heavy with fish that they cannot haul it in. One of those in the boat tells Peter: "It is the Lord." It is the unnamed "disciple whom Jesus loved," as he is called in John's Gospel. As the boat nears shore, towing the heavy net, Peter, impulsive as ever, jumps into the water to be the first to greet the Lord. Once ashore, he finds a charcoal fire with fish on it, and bread. Knowing that they would be hungry after their long night's labor, Jesus has made breakfast for them.
Did Peter recall the other charcoal fire that night in Jerusalem, where he stood warming himself? We cannot know. It is clear, however, that he was soon remembering what he had done at that other charcoal fire. Jesus' thrice-repeated question, "Do you love me?" reminds Peter all too vividly of how he had done exactly what Jesus had warned he would only hours before -- and what Peter had immediately boasted he would never do. Three times Peter had denied that he knew his Master, even as Jesus was on trial for His life in a nearby room.
"Peter was distressed," the Gospel says, because Jesus asked His question a third time. Of course he was distressed! The memory of that threefold denial was painful. Peter's thrice repeated assurance of love is his rehabilitation. In response to each pledge of love, Jesus assigns Peter responsibility: to feed Jesus' sheep. It is noteworthy, however, that the flock entrusted to Peter's care remains the Lord's: "my lambs . . . my sheep." Jesus Himself is "the chief shepherd," as we read in the First Letter of Peter (5:4).
We often think of Peter as weak before the resurrection, but afterward -- especially after the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost -- as strong. The reality is more complex. Peter retains to the end of his life something of his old weakness. Though remaining faithful to the Lord was sometimes easy for Peter, there were also times when it was difficult. That was true for Peter, and for every one of Peter's successors.
Which of us does not feel weak at times? We have made so many good resolutions -- some we have kept, many we have not. We have so many dreams, hopes, plans. We want so much, yet we settle for so little. If this is your story, then you have a friend in heaven: Simon Peter.
Jesus does not ask us to be strong. He does not ask us to be pioneers or leaders. He asks of us only what He asked of Peter: that we follow Him. That is not always easy. If we know our weakness, however, we have an advantage over those who think they are strong. Then we will trust, as we try to follow our Master and Lord, not in any strength of our own, but only and always in the strength of Jesus Christ.
About The Author:
Rev. John Jay Hughes is a priest of the Saint Louis Catholic archdiocese and the author of the memoir 'No Ordinary Fool and of Columns of Light: 30 Remarkable Saints,' available both in print and as a recorded book from Now You Know Media.
Source: Inside Catholic
how often I have felt sorry for you,
for how, conflicted with fear,
you denied Him
even why you tried to stay near.
But Saint Peter,
Let my tears of remorse
Research Reveals 4 Common Misconceptions
The idea of a happy and meaningful life has become unnecessarily complicated in some circles, says author and certified positive psychology coach Lynda Wallace, who left a high-powered executive career with Johnson & Johnson to pursue her real passion – helping individuals and groups achieve greater happiness and success.
"Happiness has been appropriately cited as a goal in political debates on issues from taxation to the social safety net to marriage equality, but the debate is often confused," says Wallace, author of "A Short Course in Happiness: Practical Steps to a Happier Life," which topped Amazon's Self-Help Best Seller list.
"Some people claim that happiness is all in your DNA or bank account. The truth is that happiness is largely a matter of everyday choices and actions. There are straightforward, well-researched and effective things every one of us can do to create greater happiness in our lives and in the lives of those we care about."
The essential elements of a happy life are not mysterious, she says.
Research shows that the happiest people do four basic things that make the difference: they focus on what is good and positive in their lives; cope effectively with life's inevitable challenges; develop strong relationships; and pursue meaningful goals.
"We can all become happier by putting our efforts into these areas," Wallace says.
One of the first steps we can take is to get past some of the common misperceptions about happiness that can stand in our way. Wallace offers these four examples.
• Misconception #1:
Happiness is about getting the big things right. It's natural to think that if we were suddenly rich, beautiful and living on the beach somewhere, we'd be happy. But that type of good fortune turns out to have a surprisingly small impact on happiness. The happiest people are most often not those in the most enviable circumstances, but those who cultivate positive emotional outlooks and actions. So how can we do it? "Take concrete steps to practice optimism, gratitude, kindness and self-compassion in your everyday life," says Wallace. "The cumulative effect of those everyday choices can have a tremendous impact on how you experience your life."
• Misconception #2:
Happy people suppress negative emotions. Happy people actually experience sadness, grief, worry and other so-called negative emotions nearly as frequently as unhappy people do. The difference is what happens when those feelings occur. Happier people are generally able to experience negative feelings without losing hope for the future. "They give themselves permission to feel sad, angry, or lonely, but they remain confident that things will get better. As a result, their sadness progresses into hope and action rather than regressing into anxiety and despair."
• Misconception #3:
Pursuing happiness is self-centered. The strongest of all conclusions drawn by researchers into emotional well-being is that our happiness is determined more by our relationships with other people than by any other single factor. The happiest people build their lives around good, trusting relationships. "If other priorities are getting in the way of your relationships," says Wallace, "take steps to shift the balance back to where it will really make a difference."
• Misconception #4:
I'll be happy when I achieve my goals. Have you ever noticed that when someone wins the Super Bowl or an Academy Award, or when you achieve a long-sought ambition, that wonderful sense of accomplishment and happiness seems to fade faster than you'd expect? "That's just the way our brains work," says Wallace. "Committed goal pursuit is one of the keys to a happy life, but most of the happiness we get from striving for goals comes while we're making progress toward them, not after we achieve them. That's why it's so important that we choose goals that are in synch with what we love and value, and that we make a conscious effort to enjoy them along the way."
About Lynda Wallace
After twenty years as a highly successful executive with Johnson & Johnson, where she was responsible for a $1B portfolio of businesses, Lynda Wallace chose to change careers to pursue her passion. She now helps individuals and groups apply proven insights and techniques to achieve greater happiness and success in their lives, families, careers, and businesses. Lynda holds an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and is a certified positive psychology coach. She is also a sought-after speaker and the author of the #1 Amazon Self-Help Best Seller "A Short Course in Happiness: Practical Steps to a Happier Life." More information is available at her website: www.lyndawallace.com.
by Dr. Joe McKeever
Bill Glass played a full career with the Cleveland Browns as an All-Pro defensive end before retiring for another career spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. In his mid-70s now, Bill is still "in the game" and "on the field."
In his book, "Get in the Game," Bill Glass tells of the time his team was battling the St. Louis Cardinals (back when they were still in that city).
That day, Cleveland had St. Louis backed up to their own 5 yard line. Cardinal quarterback Charlie Johnson took the ball and was running around in the end zone looking for someone to throw it to. Meanwhile Bill Glass, right defensive end for Cleveland, was bearing down on him from his blind side, while Paul Wiggin, left end, was barreling toward Johnson from the other side.
It was a defensive end's dream. They are about to sack the quarterback in his own end zone. This can be a game-changer. Bill could just hear the crowd cheering. This was going to be great.
At the last nanosecond, just before Glass and Wiggin smashed into the quarterback, the referee just couldn't stand it. Five hundred pounds of defensive backs were about to clobber this poor little scrawny quarterback. This just isn't right!
The referee yelled, "Watch out!"
Instantly, the quarterback ducked, causing Wiggin and Glass to hit head on, knocking both of them out cold. Charlie Johnson ended up gaining ten yards and a first down.
When Bill Glass came to, he felt so weak he could barely speak above a whisper. He reached up and pulled the referee down close so he could hear him. "You know," Bill said, "You really shouldn't have done that."
The ref, whom Glass does not identify in his book, said, "Aw, Bill, I'm sorry."
Then the referee went over and apologized to Paul Wiggin and to the Cleveland Brown coaches.
It was the only time in Bill Glass' career a referee apologized to him for anything.
These days, that scene would be on Sportscenter and replayed a hundred times. Within days, that ref would be looking for a new job.
Sometimes an apology is not enough.
I went to the Cleveland Brown history for the year of that game and saw they played St. Louis twice, winning one and losing one. If the referee's error resulted in that loss - and there's no way to know - an apology is just insufficient.
1) It is important to apologize when we have done wrong; do not overlook this.
Nothing we're saying here is meant to dismiss the value of a well-placed and sincere apology.
2) Words can be potent weapons for harm and powerful forces for good.
The words "I'm sorry, please forgive me" may not be everything, but they are often worth a great deal. Words have value.
The Old Testament prophet said to Israel, "Take words with you and return to the Lord!" (Hosea 14:2)
Sometimes, we need to hear the words. This is true, whether the words are "I love you" or "You did a great job" or "I sincerely thank you."
3) But after the apology - or along with it - action is needed.
"My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue (only), but in deed and in truth" (I John 3:18). It's not enough just to say the words and let it go at that, when remedial action is required.
4) An apology cannot undo the wrong.
Everything changes when a key decision-maker gets it wrong. In a game like football, a quarterback being thrown for a loss in his own end zone or gaining ten yards and making a first down could mean winning or losing.
We can just imagine King David, getting up off the ground where he has been brought low by the confrontation with the Prophet Nathan and then riding in his chariot to the home of his warrior Uriah. The servants assemble Uriah's mother and father along with his siblings and their families. "Everyone," the king announces, "I just want you to know I'm so sorry for what I have done. I stole Uriah's wife and had him killed in battle. Please forgive me." Later, as they drive back to the palace, David turns to his chief of staff Joab and says, "I feel so good after that! An apology gives closure."
It doesn't. Sometimes all an apology does is assign blame.
5) With the apology needs to come a new way of life.
After the end of the Second World War, Corrie ten Boom traveled Germany urging citizens to repent and seek God's forgiveness for their crimes. Revelations of the millions gassed in Hitler's ovens had thrown Germans into shock, and many were groveling in their own guilt and self-recriminations. But Corrie ten Boom - who had herself been incarcerated in one of the worst of those hell-holes and whose father and sister had both died as a result of Nazis - was a Christian and knew the healing power of repentance and forgiveness.
On one occasion, at the end of her speech, a man stepped out of the crowd, walked to her, and introduced himself as a former prison guard at Ravensbruck. "How well I know," thought Fraulein ten Boom. She had been held at that horrendous place and had memories of this very man's cruelties. He said, "I am so ashamed of some of the things I did. I've become a Christian and God has forgiven me. But whenever I find someone who was in one of our prisons, I ask them to forgive me, too. Fraulein ten Boom, will you forgive me?"
"Just so easily does he think he can erase all the pain and suffering and deaths he caused?" thought Corrie ten Boom.
She tells this story in one of her many books - readers unfamiliar with Corrie ten Boom have a delight in store; start with her autobiography "The Hiding Place" - and describes how with great difficulty she forced herself to extract her hand from her purse and to take the hand of the apologizing guard. Resisting all the protesting emotions welling up in her, she managed to utter the words, "I do forgive you. I forgive you with all my heart." And when she did, the love of God flooded her body as she had never known it. Thereafter Romans 5:5 became a mainstay in her life.
An apology alone is rarely enough, but it is a necessary first step.
We can only hope the penitent Nazi guard dedicated his life to helping the survivors of his prison camps.
6) Constant apologizing can be a substitute for repentance and changing one's behavior.
I once knew a woman who could not quit apologizing. When the pastor arrived at her home, she apologized that the place was a mess, that she had not swept the front porch, and that she was wearing an apron. Inside, she apologized for the slight disarray in the living room, for her oldest son not being home, and for interrupting the pastor's "busy schedule." He had heard quite enough of this and with a huge smile on his face, he said, "Katherine, would you please stop apologizing?!" She said, "I'm so sorry!"
A couple whose marriage was in trouble went to a counselor. The wife said, "Johnny stops by the tavern with his co-workers every evening, making him late for dinner. He spends all day Saturday fishing with these men, and on Sundays, they're together in front of the television watching football." The husband said, "I'm sorry." To that, the wife said, "That's his answer for everything: I'm sorry." "Well, what else do you expect me to say?" he said. "I am sorry."
The wife said, "I don't need an apology. I need you to change your ways."
7) Saying "it's easier to get forgiveness than permission" is a cheap shot, indicative of a manipulative personality, and completely unworthy of followers of Jesus Christ.
When we insist on getting our own way - "I can apologize later!" - we brutalize our colleagues, betray our loved ones, disappoint our co-workers and insult our Lord.
There! So much more could be said on this subject, but this seems to be a good stopping place. I'm tempted to add that if anyone needs more from me on this, well - I'm sorry. (But I don't think I will! )
A little girl went to her bedroom and pulled a glass jelly jar from its hiding place in the closet.
She poured the change out on the floor and counted it carefully. Three times, even.. The total had to be exactly perfect.. No chance here for mistakes.
Carefully placing the coins back in the jar and twisting on the cap, she slipped out the back door and made her way 6 blocks to Rexall's Drug Store with the big red Indian Chief sign above the door.
She waited patiently for the pharmacist to give her some attention, but he was too busy at this moment. Tess twisted her feet to make a scuffing noise. Nothing. She cleared her throat with the most disgusting sound she could muster. No good. Finally she took a quarter from her jar and banged it on the glass counter. That did it!
'And what do you want?' the pharmacist asked in an annoyed tone of voice.. I'm talking to my brother from Chicago whom I haven't seen in ages,' he said without waiting for a reply to his question.
'Well, I want to talk to you about my brother,' Tess answered back in the same annoyed tone. 'He's really, really sick....and I want to buy a miracle.'
'I beg your pardon?' said the pharmacist.
'His name is Andrew and he has something bad growing inside his head and my Daddy says only a miracle can save him now. So how much does a miracle cost?'
'We don't sell miracles here, little girl. I'm sorry but I can't help you,' the pharmacist said, softening a little.
'Listen, I have the money to pay for it. If it isn't enough, I will get the rest. Just tell me how much it costs.'
The pharmacist's brother was a well dressed man. He stooped down and asked the little girl, 'What kind of a miracle does your brother need?'
'I don't know,' Tess replied with her eyes welling up. I just know he's really sick and Mommy says he needs an operation. But my Daddy can't pay for it, so I want to use my money..'
'How much do you have?' asked the man from Chicago.
'One dollar and eleven cents,' Tess answered barely audible.
'And it's all the money I have, but I can get some more if I need to.'
'Well, what a coincidence,' smiled the man. 'A dollar and eleven cents---the exact price of a miracle for little brothers.'
He took her money in one hand and with the other hand he grasped her mitten and said 'Take me to where you live. I want to see your brother and meet your parents. Let's see if I have the miracle you need.'
That well-dressed man was Dr. Carlton Armstrong, a surgeon, specializing in neuro-surgery. The operation was completed free of charge and it wasn't long until Andrew was home again and doing well.
Mom and Dad were happily talking about the chain of events that had led them to this place.
'That surgery,' her Mom whispered. 'was a real miracle. I wonder how much it would have cost?'
Tess smiled. She knew exactly how much a miracle cost....one dollar and eleven cents...plus the faith of a little child.
In our lives, we never know how many miracles we will need.
A miracle is not the suspension of natural law, but the operation of a higher law.
MY OATH TO YOU...
When you are sad.....I will dry your tears.
When you are scared.....I will comfort your fears.
When you are worried......I will give you hope.
When you are confused.....I will help you cope.
And when you are lost...and can't see the light, I shall be your beacon...shining ever so bright.
This is my oath.....I pledge till the end.
Why you may ask?....Because you're my friend.
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