The Apparition of Saint Peter to Saint Peter Nolasco,
Painting by Francisco de Zurbarán (1598-1664),
Painted in 1629,
Oil on canvas
© Prado Museum, Madrid
Jesus indicated the kind of death by which Peter would give glory to God
Jesus showed himself to his disciples, and after they had eaten he said to Simon Peter, 'Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others do?' He answered, 'Yes Lord, you know I love you.' Jesus said to him, 'Feed my lambs.' A second time he said to him, 'Simon son of John, do you love me?' He replied, 'Yes, Lord, you know I love you.' Jesus said to him, 'Look after my sheep.' Then he said to him a third time, 'Simon son of John, do you love me?' Peter was upset that he asked him the third time, 'Do you love me?' and said, 'Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.' Jesus said to him, 'Feed my sheep.
'I tell you most solemnly, when you were young you put on your own belt and walked where you liked; but when you grow old you will stretch out your hands, and somebody else will put a belt round you and take you where you would rather not go.'
In these words he indicated the kind of death by which Peter would give glory to God. After this he said, 'Follow me.'
Reflection on the Painting
Our painting by Zurbarán is a good example of his work, often depicting monks. Zurbarán simply paints Saint Peter Nolasco in the presence of Saint Peter. There is nothing else distracting us from what is going on: no background, no objects, no landscape. Saint Peter Nolasco gazes at Saint Peter in devotion, and their eyes are locked in together, intensely looking at each other, as if Saint Peter is instructing and inspiring the saint about what he must do. Saint Peter Nolasco founded the Order of Our Lady of Mercy (the Mercederians), whose main mission at the time was to rescue Christians who were held captive by the Muslims.
In today's reading, Saint John the Evangelist tells us that 'Jesus indicated the kind of death by which Peter would give glory to God'. In our painting we see Saint Peter, crucified upside-down because he said to his executioners that he did not deserve to die in the same way as Jesus. Peter tried so hard to understand Jesus and never fully grasped who He was. The three questions in today's reading reflect that Jesus knew how Peter was always searching. Peter, just like the rest of us, simply could not fully grasp God's love…
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