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Blog: May 1, 2022

Fr. Jeff and others share reflections on the Sunday readings.

May 1, 2022

“‘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.’”

Peter is my dad’s favorite apostle and one of his all time favorite saints. For dad, I think it is because we have so many instances of Peter getting it wrong, as well as, getting it really right. Peter is the one who said, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” From Jesus, this was cause for a name change, to become the “Rock” upon which Jesus would build his church. He also said, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” He is the only other man we know of besides Jesus who ever walked on water. In today’s Gospel, he jumps into the sea to swim to Jesus on the shore. Yet, this is the same man to whom Jesus would say, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” He would initially refuse to have his feet washed by Jesus, sink into the water he had been walking on, and brandish a sword to cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant. He also denied Jesus three times before the cock crowed. He wept bitterly at his own failure. 

Peter never seemed to do anything half way. He was not lukewarm and was, perhaps, the opposite of apathetic. I imagine he was funny, could command an audience, was skilled as a leader, and had quite a bit of charisma. I bet there were times when he cussed like a sailor, or a fisherman. He was most likely the oldest of the apostles (but still younger than Jesus), ran his own modest business, and was married and the head of his household. He seems to be both impulsive and extremely loyal. Peter says what he thinks and does what he says. He also admits when he is wrong and recovers from his mistakes. In some ways, he is a simple man, relatively uneducated, and has little to do with intrigue or hidden agendas. We might call him the salt of the earth kind of guy. For Peter, his denial of Jesus was devastating. 

In today’s Gospel, Jesus restores Peter from his denial by asking him the question three times. Jesus also gives him a mission three times over. Do you love me? Feed my sheep. Peter was restored. He would never deny Jesus again. His mission would take him to Rome where he would be crucified upside down on a cross in the Vatican Circus. The Egyptian obelisk, taken as a trophy by the Romans, which stood in the Vatican Circus and Peter likely looked upon as he died, now stands in the center of St. Peter’s Square giving witness to the power of God working through this simple fisherman. (As an aside, the twelve apostles and St. Paul traveled an astoundingly wide geographic area to fulfill their mission from such humble beginnings in Galilee: through areas of modern day Israel, Turkey, Italy, Asia, Spain, Georgia, Bulgaria, Greece, Ukraine, North Africa, Iraq, Iran, India, Ethiopia, Egypt, Arabia, Syria, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, and Britain). Peter got a lot wrong, but in the end, he got the one thing that matters right. He loved Jesus with everything.