From the Pastor – April 10, 2016

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He then said to Simon Peter a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” Jesus said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that Jesus had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” (Jn 21:15-17)

Simon Peter is one the most intriguing characters in the New Testament.  Unlike people like John the Baptist, Mary Magdalene, or the tax collector Zacchaeus, we can’t really get a fix on Peter.  His relationship with Jesus begins strangely when Jesus performs a miracle, and Peter falls at His knees, saying: “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”  He gets the greatest compliment from Jesus:  “Blessed are you Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.  And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.” Then two verses later, when he recoils upon hearing of the suffering of Jesus, he’s told:  “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do!”

He promises to die for Jesus, and later that same Holy Thursday evening, he denies Jesus three times.  This Sunday, he’s asked about his love for Jesus.  And he’s asked again.  And again.  And he affirms his love for Jesus.

In a way, Peter stands for all of us.  Each of us goes through stages in our relationship with God that can’t be put into one story.  The story takes place over our life. We need to commit ourselves to a lifetime of conversion.

St. Augustine says that Peter had to tell Jesus he loved Him three times to counter the three times that he denied Jesus.  And after Pentecost, Peter was never to deny Jesus again.  And I imagine that this last scene between Jesus and Peter set the stage for the rest of Peter’s life.  Given his marching orders, Peter set out to evangelize the world.  But I bet Peter replayed this encounter with Jesus in his mind until his death:  “I kept telling Jesus I loved Him, and He kept telling me to ‘feed His sheep.’  I guess that’s the way that I’m supposed to express my love for Him:  by loving his sheep.”

It’s the call of Peter.  It’s the call of Pope Francis, as Successor of Peter.  And it’s our call within the Body of Christ.  We deny Jesus every time we fall into serious sin.  Our remedy is to tell Jesus we love Him.  And the way we can show it is to love His people.

(Rev. Msgr.) Christopher H. Nalty