4th / 5th May 2019

posted 10 May 2019, 06:20 by Parish Office

Homily for the Third Sunday of Easter, Year C (4 & 5/5/19)

 

How far are we prepared to go in serving the Lord?  Is that enough?  Is our lack of love for the Lord hindering our service of the Lord, our willingness to go wherever He may lead us?  These were questions St Peter had to ask himself throughout his life, and his opinion of himself didn’t always match up to the reality.

 

St Peter is perhaps one of the most impetuous of the Twelve.  He shows great enthusiasm, he’s willing to give things a go, and occasionally decides to jump without looking first.  Take his response at the Washing of the Feet.  Firstly, he objects to Christ washing his feet – that’s the job of a slave.  You can’t do that.  But when he is told, “If I do not wash you, you can have nothing in common with me”, then he responds, “not only my feet, but my hands and my head as well!” (see John 13:8-9).  A bit later on in the evening, Christ predicts that he will betray him.  Peter, impetuous once again, says, “Lord, … I would be ready to go to prison with you, and to death” (Luke 22:33).  But we know what happens; Peter denies three times that he knows Him, and then weeps bitterly for what he has done.

 

After the Resurrection, Jesus appears to him, and he knows from this that he hasn’t been rejected.  In the Gospel passage we heard today, he is once again so enthusiastic when he hears that the Lord is waiting on the shore, that he wraps himself in his cloak and jumps out of the boat.  Once he gets to the shore, Jesus then tells him to go and get the fish that have been left behind in the net.  But despite all this, there is still a bit of unfinished business.  He has to affirm three times that he loves the Lord, to cancel out the three times that he denied Him.

 

At this point, there’s something in the original Greek that isn’t translated into our English translation, and it’s perhaps debatable how it should be translated and what it means.  In Greek, there are four different words, which in English can be translated as “love”.  Alternatively, they can be translated as friendship, affection, erotic love and self-sacrificing love.  With the first two questions, Jesus asks Peter for a higher form of love, and Peter responds with a lower form.  Then, with the last question, Jesus uses the same word that Peter used, and Peter responds with the same word.  I’m not a deep and profound biblical scholar, but my translation goes something like this:

 

Jesus asks:  Simon, do you love me above everything else on this earth?

Peter responds:  Lord, you know I love you as a friend.

Jesus asks:  Simon, do you love me above everything else on this earth?

Peter responds:  Lord, you know I love you as a friend.

Jesus asks:  Simon, do you love me as a friend?

Peter responds:  Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you as a friend.

 

So what’s going on here?  I’m not aware of any definite teaching of the Church on this point.  But maybe the experience of Peter being so sure of himself, and then coming crashing down when he was put to the test, has made him somewhat unsure of himself.  He has been broken down by fear and temptation.  [Interpretation from John Marsh.]  But now, Christ affirms that he is putting him back in charge.  He has to trust more in Christ, and less in himself.  Earlier on, Peter had said to him that he was prepared to go to prison and even to die for him.  Christ affirms now that he will get his wish.  And according to tradition, St Peter was martyred by being crucified upside-down in Rome, roughly thirty years later.

 

Just before preparing this homily, I was looking through a few materials for promoting vocations, and one of the leaflets was saying that there are many men who look at the idea of becoming a priest, but then realise that they are not holy enough, and so are discouraged.  It’s understandable, especially if there are priests that you have met or heard about who seem to be really holy people.  You might think that you could never match up to that.  But the truth of the matter is, whatever our calling is, God can make us holy.  Look at the example of St Peter.  Look at what we say in response to “Behold the Lamb of God...”:  “Lord, I am not worthy...”  We don’t then all walk out of the church and never come back again.  The Eucharist is the key to helping us become the people the Lord is calling us to be, to become more worthy, both by receiving Holy Communion, and prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, whether in the tabernacle or exposed in a monstrance.  The examples of many of the saints show this to be the case.  If we are cold, we might want to go and stand by an electric fire for a while.  In the same way, if our love of God is growing cold, there’s no better way of warming up and becoming on fire with love for the Lord by spending time in prayer before the Holy Eucharist.

 

How far are we prepared to go in serving the Lord?  Is that enough?  Is our lack of love for the Lord hindering our service of the Lord, our willingness to go wherever He may lead us?  These were questions St Peter had to ask himself throughout his life.  With God’s help, despite falls and setbacks, he fulfilled his vocation.  With God’s help, we too, can do the same.

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