St Peter and the Seal of the Confessional

Because Peter had denied knowing Jesus, when he followed on after Jesus’s arrest (Luke 22: 54-62), you might expect that when Peter meets Jesus after the resurrection there might be a little awkwardness in that meeting.  But when Peter realises it is Jesus standing on the shore of the Sea of Galilee he jumps out of the boat and swims ashore to be with him (John 21: 7).  Could it be that the “awkward”  meeting had already taken place?

There are two verses that show this to be the case, Luke 24: 34 “The Lord has risen and appeared to Simon” and 1 Corinthians 15:5 where St Paul says “He appeared first to Cephas and secondly to the twelve”.

In neither case do we know what took place at this meeting.  Why is this?  Because it is none of our business.  It would be safe to say that here Peter is reconciled with Jesus and forgiven, what was said is just as secret as when we go to confession.  We have an example of how Peter behaved before when he met Jesus and was convicted of his own sins, faults and failings.  He said “Leave me Lord; for I am a sinful man” (Luke 5: 8).

In this meeting on that first Easter Sunday I can see Jesus coming to him full of forgiveness and Peter falling to his knees and saying how sorry he is for denying Jesus, that he doesn’t deserve to be an apostle but still wants to serve Jesus.  I can see Jesus taking him by the hand, raising him up and forgiving him.  That is of course my speculation about something that was very private and personal.

Later in that meeting on the shore (John 21: 1-19) over a fish supper Jesus asks Peter three times “Do you love me” and Peter responds “Yes, Lord you know I love you”.  Jesus then says, “Feed my sheep.” 

This is said in front of all the others showing them that Peter’s standing and mission is unchanged.  After all he was the first of the apostles to acknowledge Jesus as Lord. “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Matthew 16: 16.

And so we have it,  Peter in his distress and sorrow being met by Jesus for reconciliation.  What happened was private and bears the seal of the confessional but we can be certain that he was forgiven and restored to fellowship with Jesus.

In the same way Jesus meets with us for reconciliation.  We are convicted of sin by the Holy Spirit, moved to go to confession.  What takes place there is secret and we are forgiven, reconciled with Jesus and receive Him in the Eucharist.

Jesus demonstrates to us over and over again the depth of His grace and mercy.

To finish here’s a youtube clip from a musical about St Peter