Peter, Where Are You Going?

    The diocese of Rome, Italy, is called the "Apostolic See" because it was at Rome that Peter and Paul preached the faith, and it was at Rome that they were martyred. The church celebrates their feast on June 29th. It is an important feast in the church.  "By sharing the cup of the Lord's suffering," says today’s entrance antiphon, "they became the friends of God." Jesus had predicted Peter's eventual capture and execution on the same day that he gave him charge over his sheep and lambs. "When you are old," he told Peter, "“you will stretch out your hands, and another will fasten your belt for you, and carry you where you do not wish to go" (Jn 21:18-19). History testifies to Peter’s death on a cross – a cross set upside down in the earth because Peter felt he did not deserve to die in exactly the same way his Master had.

In addition to a few pieces of historical evidence of St. Peter's death, there are also some legends. Especially touching is the Quo Vadis legend, which dates from around 200 AD. According to this story, one of Peter's Roman converts was Xantippe, wife of the pagan Roman magistrate Agrippa. Albinus, a friend of Emperor Nero, urged Agrippa to seize and execute Peter as leader of the hated Christians. Xantippe, learning of the proposal, hastened to warn Peter. She and other leading Roman Christians urged him to escape from Rome. "Shall we be put to flight, brother?" Peter asked sternly. Was he to play the coward? "No," they insisted, "but that you may still be able to serve the Lord." Peter thought awhile and saw their point, but he would not allow them to accompany him. "Let no one of you depart with me, but I will go out alone, for I have changed my purpose."

      However, Peter had not got far outside Rome’s Appian gate when he suddenly saw Jesus walking the Appian Way towards Rome. "Lord," cried Peter, "Where are you going?" ("Domine, quo vadis"?) Jesus answered, "I am going to Rome to be crucified." "But, Lord," Peter replied, "Were you not crucified once?" The Master replied, "I saw that you were fleeing from death, and I am willing to be crucified in your stead."  Peter got the point. "Lord, I will go. I will do your bidding." "Fear not," Jesus reassured him, "for I am with you." Then he vanished. Peter returned to Rome, no longer confused or fearful, but joyful. He knew that the time had come for Christ’s prophecy about him to be fulfilled. So, it was the cross for Peter. He who had fled from Christ’s Calvary found his own Calvary on Vatican Hill.

In the Service of the Lord,
  Fr Thainese Alphonse


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