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A Practical Commentary On Holy Scripture by Frederick Justus Knecht D.D.

[John 13:33–38. Luke 22:31–34. Mat. 26:31–35]

HAVING given His apostles this great proof of His love—His own Body and Blood, Jesus vouchsafed to give them also a new commandment of love. “Little children”, said He, “yet a little while I am with you. I give you a new commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you. By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love one for another.”

Simon Peter said to Him: “Lord, whither goest Thou?” Jesus answered: “Whither I go, thou canst not follow Me now, but thou shalt follow Me afterwards.” Peter said to Him: “Why cannot I follow Thee now? I will lay down my life for Thee.” Jesus answered Him: “Wilt thou lay down thy life for Me? Amen, amen, I say unto thee, the cock shall not crow twice before thou deny Me thrice!”

Then the Lord addressed Peter: “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for thee that thy faith fail not; and thou, being once converted, confirm thy brethren. All of you shall be scandalized in Me this night. For it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be dispersed.’ ”

The Omniscience of Jesus. Our Lord exactly foretold both that Judas would betray Him, and that, in the same night before the second cockcrow, St. Peter would deny Him three times, and that all the Apostles would desert Him. Only the omniscient God can know beforehand what man, gifted with free-will, will do. St. Peter himself thought it quite impossible that he could deny his beloved Master, and yet our Lord foretold in detail all that would occur. This proves that our Blessed Lord was omniscient, or, in other words, that He is God.

St. Peter’s self-confidence. We have repeatedly had occasion to admire St. Peter’s faith, and love of our Lord. Even in the story we have just read, the chief of the apostles evinced great love and great faith, declaring that he would never take scandal at anything that Jesus did, and was ready to lay down his life for His sake. Peter seriously and honestly meant what he said, but he trusted too much in himself, overrated his own strength and, forgetting the weakness of his human nature, believed himself capable of remaining faithful to his Master under all circumstances, simply because he wished to do so. His will was good, but he was wanting in that humility which comes from a knowledge of one’s own frailty. He ought to have thought and said: “With Thy help I will never fail”; but, instead of this, he put himself on a different level from the other apostles, and implied that, although they might very easily go astray, he never could! This high opinion of himself, and his undue self-confidence led him to the fall which will be related in chapter LXXII. We should never forget that, without the assistance of God’s grace, we can neither keep the commandments nor persevere in well-doing.

The Pope is the Supreme and Infallible Teacher of Faith. Our Lord foretold to St. Peter that he would deny Him, but at the same time He gave him the assurance that his faith would not fail, and entrusted him with the office of confirming his brethren in faith. As a matter of fact Peter’s faith never did waver, for he did not cease to believe, even when he lacked the courage to confess his faith. Our Blessed Lord destined him to be the foundation of His Church, and on that account prayed that his faith might ever be firm and untarnished, so that he might act as a prop to the faith of his brethren. By so doing our Lord Jesus Christ appointed St. Peter to be the supreme teacher of His Church, his office being to maintain and confirm all members of His Church in the true faith; and He gave to him moreover the special grace that his faith should never fail; in other words, that he should be infallible in the exercise of this office. How could Peter confirm his brethren in the true faith, unless he himself were preserved from error in matters of faith? His infallibility in the exercise of his office has, together with the office itself, descended from Peter to his successors, the Supreme Pontiffs of the Catholic Church. An infallible teacher who can maintain his brethren, his fellow-Christians, in the true faith, is as necessary to the Church now as it was in the days of St. Peter. The Roman See has always proved itself to be the guardian and protector of the true faith, by giving, in virtue of the divine office committed to it, unerring decisions in matters of dispute, and rejecting all false doctrines.

APPLICATION. What happened to St. Peter ought to make you guard very carefully against over-confidence in yourself, and make you pray fervently: “Lead us not into temptation!”








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