Generosity and weakness


On June 29, we celebrate the feast of St. Peter, a good chance to visit the vocation of this apostle par excellence. Although we know St. Peter well, his figure never ceases to fascinate us. He is the great Peter, the enthusiastic and generous man who also knew our weakness and smallness! (Mt 5:1-11)




When I think of Peter, what comes to mind is what the book of Acts of the Apostles says with regard to his…shadow! The population of Jerusalem and the area around there brought their sick into the streets and laid them on beds and sleeping mats in the hope that, at least, the shadow of Peter might fall across some of them as he went past, for them to be cured (Acts 5:15).


Mysterious shadow

What is there that’s more discreet or subtle, humble or silent than a shadow? But Peter’s was particularly alive and industrious…a mysterious shadow that left behind it a trail of light and life! A beneficent, luminous shadow which, wherever it passed, made the suffering people dance with joy! It reminds us of Jesus who “went about doing good and curing all” (Acts 10:38).

Yes, that was, undoubtedly, the “shadow of Jesus!” There is no shadow without light. The sun of Christ illuminated Peter, surrounded all his life, accompanied each of his steps, made his actions fruitful and wide-reaching. It was Jesus who hid in the shadow of His beloved friend.

This shadow, however, has a long story which we can glimpse in the preaching of the pages of the Gospel.


Jesus’ shadow

Everything had begun just over three years earlier, perhaps in a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Following the route that led along the River Jordan, Peter and other friends took their opportunity to hear the “Voice” coming from the desert. Indeed, it seems that Andrew supported his brother. It was precisely there that they got to know Jesus. He also went down to the Jordan, following an inner calling that attracted him to that place where the prophetic word of The Baptist resonated loudly. Andrew was the first one to meet Jesus. Fascinated and convinced, he had discovered the Messiah and he wanted to share the great news with his brother. It was a lightning meeting! Jesus stared into Peter’s eyes, called him by his name Simon and, looking at his solidness, gave him a new name: Peter, the Rock (Jn 1:40-42).

It was the beginning of a great friendship. Then, one day, “the son of the carpenter” surprised “Simon, the fisherman,” with a miraculous fishing episode which made him fall at His feet, confessing his sins (Lk 5:1-11). And from that point on, the great and exciting adventure, as a disciple of the “Prophet from Nazareth,” began. The great dream of Israel was about to happen. Jesus spoke about the coming of the Kingdom of God. The portentous signs He gave, His Word full of authority which kept the crowds amazed (Mk 1:27), made expectations about Jesus grow.

Peter became the head of the group, the Master’s confidant, sticking to Him like His shadow. Associating him in an unusual way to His mission, Jesus gave him His powers, even entrusting him with “the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mt 16:19). In the synoptic Gospels, Peter appears as Jesus’ favorite apostle.


Dark shadow

At a certain point, however, something began to go wrong. Jesus resisted the crowds who wanted to acclaim Him king. The demands He made on His followers drove away a good number of them. Then the unexpected happened: Jesus said He had to go to Jerusalem, where great suffering and death awaited Him, to “resurrect on the third day.” The group of Twelve felt confused and half lost. Peter felt obliged to intervene to ward off a similar shadow! Jesus’ reaction, however, was unexpected and severe: “Get behind Me, Satan! You are thinking not as God thinks, but as human beings do”(Mk 8:31-33).

Peter was shocked, humiliated and saddened. Peter….a stumbling block? Had his shadow suddenly become “sinister” to Jesus? What had happened? Peter was thinking he was “protecting” the Master by putting himself in front of Him, but he had forgotten that it was His “shadow” and, therefore, it should follow behind. That “putting yourself in front of My path” obscured the Father’s Plan and reminded Jesus of the tempter who tried to cover the path with his grim dark shadow.

But then the memorable welcome to Jerusalem took place. The apostles breathed a sigh of relief and shouted as loudly as they could with the crowd of Galilean pilgrims: “Hosanna! Blessed is He who is coming in the Name of the Lord!” (Mk 11:9-10). However, they had not calculated on the determination of the heads of the Jewish nation who had decided to kill Jesus. Everything happened quickly when Judas offered them an unexpected opportunity to lay their hands on Him discreetly: during the night, in a lonely place, far from the crowds, defenseless…

At His last supper, Jesus announced that His hour was near. The cloud of sadness and worry again descended over the group. Peter, who had recovered his self-confidence, full of zeal, declared he was ready to fight to defend Jesus, ready to sacrifice his life or die with Him. The “shadow” continued stuck to the Master, even at night! But when Jesus, with a sad smile, predicted that they would all abandon Him and that Peter would deny Him three times before the cock crowed (Jn 13:36-38), again that dark ghost furtively took over Peter’s heart, freezing his enthusiasm. Could the Master doubt his friendship and loyalty?


Paralyzing shadow

What happened next is what we all already know. An unsure and unaccomplished Peter still tries to defend the Master with his sword (Jn 18:10-11) but ends up fleeing, like all the others. Then comes the fateful moment around the camp fire, in the enemy field. That fire, populating the night of ghosts, projects into Peter’s heart the paralyzing shadow of fear, a shadow that is not of the Master’s: “I do not know Him” (Lk 22:57). It is Jesus looking at him that suddenly wakes him up from his stupor. He then hears the cock crow, remembers the words of Jesus…” And he went outside and wept bitterly” (Lk 22:62).


Luminous shadow

When Jesus is resurrected, He goes looking for His scattered flock (Mk 14:27). He pays particular attention to go and free Peter from his “paralyzing shadow,” which would fatally shadow his heart and his ministry. Jesus proceeds in both an elegant and discreet way. In a moment of intimacy, around the morning fire, Peter confesses his friendship three times and reconfirms it, also three times, in his ministry. The “third time” awakens the shadow of sadness buried in Peter’s heart and has an effective therapeutic effect: “Lord, You know everything; You know I am Your friend!” (Jn 21:17). And, Jesus, who only days earlier had told him he couldn’t “follow Him” immediately, now invites him to do so, with a solemn “Follow Me!” Moreover, He tells him he’ll share His same destiny and martyrdom (Jn 21:19). Peter will again be Jesus’ faithful shadow! Crucified, in time, like Him, he’ll ask to be turned upside down, so as to be simply the “shadow” of his Master on the cross.

I ask myself: how could Peter live serenely with that shadow of his Martyr, which would hover over any one of us like a continuous threat? Only his great friendship and his identification with Jesus could give a luminous aspect to that “shadow.” It was the Master’s because it worked the same miracles (Mk 6:56), doing good wherever it passed!


And our shadow?

Like Peter, we were called – by baptism – to let ourselves be illuminated by the Light of Christ: “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” He will expel the “dark shadows” of the “demons” and the “paralyzing shadows” of the “ghosts” that hide in our heart.

Like Peter, we are invited – by vocation – to live in the “shadow of the Lord:” “Yahweh is your Guardian, your Shade, Yahweh, at your right hand” (Ps 121:5). A shadow which is refreshing, protective, a friend and, at the same time, discreet, which embraces but does not suffocate.

Like Peter, we are called – as a mission – to be the “shadow of Jesus,” a beneficent shadow, offering shelter and protection, “like the shade of a solid rock in a desolate land” (Is 32:2), like the apple tree whose shade is so desired by the Wife (Song 2:3). There are so many people who feel unsheltered, under the scorching sun of hunger and injustice, of anguish and loneliness. It won’t be great discussions or ostentatious actions that will bring comfort and hope to those suffering but the discreet friendly shadow of the person who comes next to you. This consoling shadow is inhabited by the Spirit, pregnant from fecundity like that which covered the Virgin Mary (Lk 1:35). May the Lord allow us to be His blessed shadow!

We should ask ourselves: how is our shadow? What is it doing behind us? From time to time, it is good to give it a furtive glance, to surprise it in action. Is it sowing good or undoing behind our backs what we have been trying to do in front? Is it luminous, the projection of Christ Resuscitated? Or, on the contrary, is it obscured by the dark cloud of egotism or greed for profit, thirst for power, a slave for pleasure? We all know, by experience, how terrible such shadows are. Nothing grows next to them.

Look at the trail left behind by your shadow and you’ll know if Christ’s light illuminates your life!

Share Your Thoughts

All comments are moderated

From The Same Issue

The articles and content about this issue

From The Same Issue

The articles and content about this issue

From This Topic

The articles and content about this topic

From This Topic

The articles and content about this topic

The Searcher's Path

Tell us, Mary!

Explore Other Topics

Browse other coverage

Explore Other Topics

Browse other coverage


Presents, discusses and draws readers to reflect on issues of outmost relevance to the world today.


Very often, mission is carried out in frontier situations around the world. Those who embrace these situations have much to share.


Writer Ilsa Reyes will be exploring the richness of Pope Francis’s latest encyclical Fratelli Tutti with a view of helping our readers to get a grasp of the this beautiful papal document.


Puts to the front committed and inspiring people around the world who embrace humanitarian and religious causes with altruism and passion.


Focus on a given theme of interest touching upon social, economic and religious issues.


As the Philippines prepares to celebrate 500 years of the arrival of Christianity. Fr. James Kroeger leads us in this series into a discovery journey of the landmark events in the history of faith in the Philippine archipelago.


Aims to nurture and inspire our hearts and minds while pondering upon timely themes.


The large archipelago of the Philippines, in its richness of peoples and cultures, offers varied and challenging situations for mission.


Reflections and vocation stories that shape up the lives of young people.


As humor and goodness of heart are qualities of Christian and missionary life, the new column “Mission is fun” will be publishing some anecdotes and stories that have happened in a missionary context to lighten up the spirits and trigger a smile in our faces.


To help readers of World Mission live this year dedicated to Ecumenism, Interreligious Dialogue and Indigenous Peoples, Tita Puangco, writer and lecturer, shares in this section insights on the spirituality of communion.


A historic view of the Catholic movements that emerged from the grassroots as an inspiration by the Holy Spirit.


On the Year of Ecumenism, Interreligious Dialogue and Indigenous Peoples, radio host and communicator Ilsa Reyes, in her monthly column, encourages Christians and people of good will to be one with their fellow people of other sects, religions and tribes.


Questions to a personality of the Church or secular world on matters of interest that touch upon the lives of people.


News from the Church, the missionary world and environment that inform and form the consciences.


A feature on environmental issues that are affecting the whole world with the view of raising awareness and prompting action.


The editor gives his personal take on a given topic related to the life of the Church, the society or the world.


A monthly column on themes touching the lives of young people in the Year of the Youth in the Philippines by radio host and communicator I lsa Reyes.


A missionary living in the Chinese world shares his life-experiences made up of challenges and joyous encounters with common people.


Life stories of people who deserve to be known for who they were, what they did and what they stood for in their journey on earth.


Stories of people whom a missionary met in his life and who were touched by Jesus in mysterious ways.


Critical reflection from a Christian perspective on current issues.


Comboni missionary Fr. Lorenzo Carraro makes a journey through history pinpointing landmark events that changed the course of humanity.


A biographical sketch of a public person, known for his/her influence in the society and in the Church, showing an exemplary commitment to the service of others.


Gives fresh, truthful, and comprehensive information on issues that are of concern to all.


A column aimed at helping the readers live their Christian mission by focusing on what is essential in life and what it entails.


Peoples, events, religion, culture and the society of Asia in focus.


The human heart always searches for greatness in God’s eyes, treading the path to the fullness of life - no matter what it takes.


The subcontinent of India with its richness and variety of cultures and religions is given center stage.


The African continent in focus where Christianity is growing the fastest in the world.


Well-known writer and public speaker, Fr. Jerry Orbos, accompanies our journey of life and faith with moments of wit and inspiration based on the biblical and human wisdom.


On the year dedicated to St. Ignatius of Loyala, Fr. Lorenzo Carraro walks us through the main themes of the Ignatian spirituality.


Fr. John Taneburgo helps us to meditate every month on each of the Seven Last Words that Jesus uttered from the cross.


In this section, Fr. Lorenzo delves into the secrets and depths of the Sacred Scriptures opening for us the treasures of the Sacred Book so that the reader may delight in the knowledge of the Word of God.


Reflections about the synodal journey on a conversational and informal style to trigger reflection and sharing about the synodal path the Church has embarked upon.

Shopping Cart