Third Sunday of Easter – 22.04.07
Acts 5, 27-32. 40-41; Psalm 30; Revelation 5, 11-14; St. John 21, 1-19
When Peter and the other disciples in the boat behind him came upon Jesus, they found him sitting at a fire. He offered them breakfast. Jesus was not a ghost, but a real human being. He ate with them.
Then we come to that wonderful dialogue between Jesus and Peter demanding the triple affirmation from Peter as a negation of his triple denial on Good Friday. “Do you love me, Simon Peter?” “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” “Then feed my sheep.” Peter has learnt his lesson. The bravado is gone. He does not dare to compare himself with his fellow-disciples. Now he only speaks for himself: "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Three times Jesus is asked the same question just as three times Peter had denied. It hurts him and finally he says: "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you."
Jesus was not about to let Peter wallow in his own guilt and self-pity. OK, he had done a terrible thing. He had denied the Lord. But, to Jesus, there were more important things to consider: Peter, as head of the apostles, would be the point man in the establishment of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, the Church.
In the first reading for this Sunday, Peter happily accepts being flogged for the sake of the Word of God. In a complete reversal from the coward who lied on Good Friday, Peter tells the Sanhedrin that he will listen to the Lord rather than them. We know from early Christian writers that Peter would eventually go to Rome and, as the Roman historian Tertullian states, endure a passion like his Lord’s.” The Christian theologian, Origen, and others testify that Peter was crucified, head downward. This happened in the Ager Vaticanus, the area on the west bank of the Tiber where Nero had constructed an arena. Christians would eventually build a Church over the burial spot, and then a basilica. The truth of Jesus would continue to nourish the people from Peter and those who stood in his place, the popes.
This all happened because Peter accepted the forgiveness of the Lord and moved on with the Lord’s business. That’s the main message for those of us who have also have sinned and then sought forgiveness. We cannot allow ourselves to be mired down in the past. Jesus has far more important things for us to do then wallow in guilt
Let me tell you a story of a typical woman whom Jesus would not allow to remain stagnating in her own guilt.
This woman was forced to make a horrible decision and she allowed the life within her to be destroyed so many people whom she had respected told her what was the best thing for her to have done, however, they wouldn't have to live with the result. Perhaps these authority figures in her life carried a greater responsibility than she did for what had happened, but she was the only one who suffered the consequences. She was the one who could not think about a child without being immersed in pain. She was the one who was in turmoil.
She sought forgiveness through confession and healing through Project Rachel. She learned that Jesus had work for her to do. She could form a positive out of the horrible negative of her life. Pope John Paul II actually wrote to her and those like her. He wrote the she could become stronger than before because she now recognized the value of human life.
To quote the late Holy Father once more: you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone’s right to life. Through your commitment to life, whether by accepting the birth of other children or by welcoming and caring for those most in need of someone to be close to them, you will become promoters of a new way of looking at human life. She could live in peace. She must live in peace. God had work for her to do.
Jesus will not allow us to be mired down in our guilt. He has too much work for us to do. His work.
We are all human beings in need of the forgiveness of God, but once we have been forgiven, we need to get down to work. “Show your love for me, Simon Peter, by feeding my sheep,” the Lord said. Jesus has too much work for us to do. His work.