Gal 2:1-2, 7-14 / Lk 11:1-4
St Peter is one of the most fascinating figures in the New Testament. He generally seems bigger than life, walking on water, slicing off the high priest servant’s ear, boldly proclaiming that he’d never deny Jesus. And, of course, his mistakes were usually bigger than life too.
Today’s epistle finds him wavering back and forth, trying to keep the peace between the Jewish Christians and the Gentile converts. At issue was the matter of forcing Gentiles to observe all the Jewish dietary laws. Initially, Peter’s generous spirit told him that was foolish, and he, a Jew, ate regularly with the Gentiles. But then he got cold feet and, to buy peace, distanced himself from the Gentiles.
At that point, St Paul intervened, telling Peter plainly that he was wrong and that Jesus would have been astonished at his conduct, which made no sense in terms of the larger gospel values that Jesus had taught. Peter knew the truth when he heard it, and though it was embarrassing, he reversed himself and followed Paul’s advice.
It’s interesting to speculate what percentage of us would have the same willingness and ability both to listen and to change course in broad daylight with all the world watching. Maybe that’s a habit we could learn to cherish and practice. The people around us might well be astonished, and they’d certainly be grateful.