Commentary on the Gospel of
Peter said, “we have given up everything to follow you.” When I read these words, I cannot but break into a smile, thinking how innocent yet how false his words were! For, had they really given up everything to follow Jesus? If they did, how come John and James would get their mom to persuade Jesus to reserve the seats to his left and right in his Kingdom, and other disciples would be furious that John and James beat them into asking for it before they could? And how many times did they fight among themselves as to who among them was the greatest? And think about how Judas betrayed him for thirty silver coins and Peter, to save his skin! If is tragi-comic to visualize how one of them ran away, giving up even his clothes desperately trying to get away from him (Cf. Mark 14: 51-52)! But Peter cannot be faulted – he thought they all truly left everything in following him.
Just like I thought I left everything to follow him when I took my first vows as a religious! How innocent yet how false my thoughts were, as time would prove to me! Like Peter and other disciples, I also left physical things and family belongings; but there were far more subtle things they and I needed to die to: subtle emotional attachments, love for name and fame, desire for security, fear of rejection, and the thousand-headed ego. What was needed was not merely giving up everything one has, but everything one is – like the very kenosis of Jesus himself (Cf. Phili. 2: 5-8). The disciples would take a long, long time to learn this the hard way; or, rather, to realize the impossibility of doing it perfectly by oneself and learn to surrender to Christ who alone can do it for us, in us! This is what brings Peter to knees and to tears saying, “You know, everything Lord, you know that I love you” (John 21:17). Unlike his sentence in today’s Gospel, there was no “I” or “We” leading that sentence, it was “You” – Him.
The beauty is, Jesus didn’t laugh at his words. He knew Peter meant it well. And he knew Peter would learn along the way –
Like you and I will, by sheer Grace.