Of all the Easter encounters that we find in the Gospels – this one between the Risen Jesus Christ and Simon Peter, to me is one of the most intimate and beautiful. Peter, one of Jesus’ first followers and closest friends; the one who he called to be the first Pope, His “rock” who on Good Friday was anything but – has been overwhelmed with guilt and doubt ever since. And this guilt and doubt continues to plague Peter. Even though on Easter Sunday the first thing Jesus did to the apostles in that upper room was to offer His forgiveness, Peter’s still crushed by guilt what he did and shame for what he didn’t do for Jesus in his hour of need.
Jesus asks Him three times “do you love me”? Not because Jesus is interrogating him. ot to make him feel even worse… Jesus knows the answer – But He needs Peter to know it. Three times Peter is called to renew his love for Jesus to heal the three times he denied Him on Good Friday. But it’s more than that. Even before Good Friday, Peter knows the many, many times he’s screwed up. Times he was impetuous. Times he didn’t listen or listen carefully to what Jesus was saying to Him, calling Him to do. Times he thought he knew better. In this, one of the last Gospel scenes of the Easter season, we hear Peter finally, letting go of his pride, his ego in a profound way. We can almost read between the lines:
Lord you know everything… you know my failures, you know my best attempts and intentions, you know my self-doubts, you know my fears, you know my heart… you know I love you – despite how weak, how sinful, how imperfect I am…you know I love you
To which Jesus renews the call He has entrusted to Peter: Feed my sheep.
This Gospel reading falling on this, my 21st anniversary of being ordained a priest … I can relate to Peter and sometimes feel I imitate him more than who it is I’m called to imitate – Christ Himself. I’m humbled to intimately know, chapter and verse – my failures, my weaknesses, how my pride and ego can get in the way over and over again and again. Despite all that, still after all these years, I’m still kind of shocked that he’s called me to be one of his priests. And now more than ever, I recognize how
whenever I’ve been able to stand in the person of Christ: offer His Mercy and Forgiveness, His body and blood;
whatever effectiveness I have in ministry;
however limited, personally, I may feel or actually be, to do whatever He’s called me to do that somehow I’ve been able to accomplish whatever I have been able to
– is only possible when I’m
more focused on His forgiveness than my failures
more confident in His call then my desires
more trusting in Him than my very self.
Please pray for me that my love for Christ will never waver – and that I will remain faithful to His call to feed His sheep.