Primacy of St. Peter
February 16, 2019
In the St. John Paul II Chapel in the Theology Residence Hall back home at Mundelein, there are two inscriptions above the tabernacle: “Nolite Timere” and “Duc in Altum.” Both phrases come from the 5th chapter of Luke’s Gospel and are translated as “Do not be afraid,” and “Put out into the deep.”
I was reminded of both phrases today during our visit to the Church of the Primacy of Saint Peter in Galilee. The church is built on the shores of the Sea of Galilee and commemorates the site where Christ appeared to the Apostles after the Resurrection which we read of in the final chapter of John’s Gospel.
Throughout the grounds of the church, there are various plaques mixed in with the stones of the walls and buildings. On an outside corner of the church, facing the shore, sits a plaque with a line from Luke: “At thy word I will let down the net.” They are the words of Peter immediately after Christ instructs him to “put out into the deep.” After a miraculous catch of fish, Peter pleads with the Lord to depart from him because he is a sinful man and our Lord replies with those words we all wish to hear when we face challenges: “Do not be afraid.” It is from here that he made them fishers of men.
The words on the side of that Church recount events from 2000 years ago, and the temptation exists to treat the site as a historical artifact, a museum piece, or something that has no bearing on us today. That temptation is countered by the words on the plaque accompanying the passage from Luke that are so fitting they bear repeating in their entirety: “The deeds and miracles of Jesus are not actions of the past. Jesus is waiting for those who are still prepared to take risks at His word because they trust His power utterly.”
This brings us full circle to the passage from John which was the cause for our visit. Peter wasn’t perfect. He doubted, and Christ asking him three times, “Do you love me?” is a response to the times where Peter failed to live up to Christ’s calling. All of our vocational paths whether it be to the priesthood, as all of us here believe we were called, married life, single life, or religious life will have moments when we fail, when we doubt, or when we fear when we are asked to “put out into the deep.” In those moments, we must remember to trust and to not be afraid. When we do that, we will surprise ourselves in our ability to follow the command of Christ spoken on that very shore where I sat this morning: “Follow me.”
Archdiocese of Dubuque, IA