St. Peter, a Man of Few Words …

This liturgical year, we hear the Gospel of Mark (with some Gospel of John sprinkled in) proclaimed at Sunday Mass. Mark’s gospel is the shortest of the four and is almost universally held to be the oldest of all the gospels. Indeed, it appears that both Matthew and Luke use Mark as their source text and then add their own stories and accounts from different oral traditions than Marks to flesh out their own gospel texts.

Interestingly, there is significant evidence that Mark’s gospel is one that draws upon the preaching of St. Peter himself as collected by Mark. Here is a good source for this from another website:

The earliest traditions concerning this ‘Gospel’ come from Papias who is quoted by Eusebius and other writers in the early church. Papias, writing at the beginning of the second century, quotes ‘the Elder’ (whom Gundry considers to have been the apostle John)...

“This is what the Elder used to say: Mark became Peter’s interpreter and wrote accurately, though not in order, all that he remembered of the things said or done by the Lord. For he had not himself heard the Lord or been his follower, but later, as I said, he followed Peter. Peter delivered teachings as occasion required, rather than compiling a sort of orderly presentation of the traditions about the Lord. So Mark was not wrong in recording in this way the individual items as he remembered them. His one concern was to leave out nothing of what he had heard and to make no false statements in reporting them.”

One commentator on Mark’s gospel recommends that we read it out loud, as if we were St. Peter telling these stories from his time with Christ – St. Peter desiring that we believe that Jesus is truly the crucified one, the Son of God. As I did so, it became clear to me that Peter was a man of few words.

Take this week’s Gospel for the 4th Sunday in OT. It is the start of a basic day in Christ’s life. This one passage captures Jesus’ mission in Galilee: teaching, an exorcism, healing, and proclaiming, all without a lot of details. No details about how Jesus was invited to teach, how many people were in the synagogue, what the possessed man looked like or how he acted. None. As Sgt. Friday used to say on Dragnet: “Just the facts, sir, just the facts.”

St. Peter, it seems, was a man of few words. So when he does speak (through Mark’s gospel), perhaps we should hear his words and ponder them deeply.

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