St. Peter has a central role in our readings today. In the Gospel, we see one of his greatest moments. Though all the other men in the synagogue abandoned Jesus because they could not understand his teaching, the Twelve did not. Why Judas stayed we cannot guess, but Peter’s reasoning shows a great growth in understanding since he asked Jesus to leave him. “Leave me Lord, for I am a sinful man,” seemed humble enough at the time, but today Peter reveals a new and extraordinary humility: “Where shall we go, Lord? You have the words of eternal life.”
In the reading from Acts, we see Peter work not one miracle but two, and not small miracles but truly demonstrations of the power of God. A man paralyzed for 8 years walks again and a dead woman gets up and lives again. Jesus promises that his disciples will work miracles like his and even greater ones than he did. Jesus made the lame walk, so Peter made the lame walk. Jesus brought Lazarus back to this life, so Peter brought Tabitha back to life. The only difference is that when Jesus worked a miracle, he usually just made people angry, but when Peter works these miracles, “all the inhabitants of Lydda and Sharon saw and turned to the Lord.”
Clearly, Peter the fisherman did not work these miracles. It was the Holy Spirit working within him. He could never have worked the miracles if he had not decided to stay with Jesus. He cannot take credit for the miracles, but he does not take credit for staying with Jesus either. Jesus asks the Twelve if they will leave too, and Peter does not say, “Of course we will never leave, we love you.” What if a husband asks his wife, “Will you abandon me?” and she responds, “Where would I go?” How romantic!
It sounds as if he is obligated to stay with Jesus because he has no other options. Yet he still has the same options that he always had. He could go fishing again. He could do anything in the world, but his point is that having seen Jesus, the rest of the world seems drab and boring. What does success mean to him? What do pleasures mean to him? Nothing, in comparison to what is before him. He heard the words of eternal life and his whole life was changed. There was no going back.