Friday, May 13, 2016

First Reading: Acts 25:13-21
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 103:1-2, 11-12, 19-20
Gospel: John 21:15-19

The Sorrowful Mystery

First Reading: Acts 25:13-21

Festus Consults King Agrippa

13 And after some days, king Agrippa and Bernice came down to Caesarea to salute Festus.

14 And as they tarried there many days, Festus told the king of Paul, saying: A certain man was left prisoner by Felix.

15 About whom, when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests, and the ancients of the Jews, came unto me, desiring condemnation against him.

16 To whom I answered: It is not the custom of the Romans to condemn any man, before that he who is accused have his accusers present, and have liberty to make his answer, to clear himself of the things laid to his charge.

17 When therefore they were come hither, without any delay, on the day following, sitting in the judgment seat, I commanded the man to be brought.

18 Against whom, when the accusers stood up, they brought no accusation of things which I thought ill of:

19 But had certain questions of their own superstition against him, and of one Jesus deceased, whom Paul affirmed to be alive.

20 I therefore being in a doubt of this manner of question, asked him whether he would go to Jerusalem, and there be judged of these things.

21 But Paul appealing to be reserved unto the hearing of Augustus, I commanded him to be kept, till I might send him to Caesar.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 103:1-2, 11-12, 19-20

Thanksgiving for God’s Goodness

Of David.

For David himself. Bless the Lord, O my soul: and let all that is within me bless his holy name.

2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, and never forget all he hath done for thee.

11 For according to the height of the heaven above the earth: he hath strengthened his mercy towards them that fear him.

12 As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our iniquities from us.

19 The Lord hath prepared his throne in heaven: and his kingdom shall rule over all.

20 Bless the Lord, all ye his angels: you that are mighty in strength, and execute his word, hearkening to the voice of his orders.

Gospel: John 21:15-19

Jesus and Peter

15 When therefore they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter: Simon son of John, lovest thou me more than these? He saith to him: Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He saith to him: Feed my lambs.

16 He saith to him again: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? He saith to him: Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He saith to him: Feed my lambs.

17 He said to him the third time: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved, because he had said to him the third time: Lovest thou me? And he said to him: Lord, thou knowest all things: thou knowest that I love thee. He said to him: Feed my sheep.

18 Amen, amen I say to thee, when thou wast younger, thou didst gird thyself, and didst walk where thou wouldst. But when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and lead thee whither thou wouldst not.

19 And this he said, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had said this, he saith to him: Follow me.

“May they become perfectly one”

The Lord Jesus asked Simon Peter and he asks each one of us a very personal and profound question - do you love me more than anything else that might be very dear to you? How can the love of Jesus Christ be so attractive and so costly at the same time? Jesus on many occasions spoke to his disciples about the nature of God's unquenchable love. God is love (1 John 4:16) because he is the creator and source of all that is true love. His love is unconditional, unmerited, and unlimited. We can't buy it, earn it, demand it. It is a pure gift, freely given, and freely received. God's love doesn't change or waver. It endures because it is eternal and timeless. It’s the beginning and the end - the purpose for which God created us and why he wants us to be united with him in a bond of unbreakable love. And it’s the essence of what is means to be a son or daughter of God the eternal Father.

Love gives all for the good of others
The Lord Jesus shows us that love is a personal choice and a gift freely given - it is the giving of oneself to another person for their sake. Unselfish love is oriented wholly to the good of the other person for their own welfare and benefit. John the Evangelist tells us that "God so loved the world that he gave us his only-begotten Son" (John 3:16) who took on human flesh for our sake and who died upon the cross for our salvation - to set us free from the power of sin so that we might receive abundant everlasting life and peace with God.

God's love heals and transforms our lives and frees us from fear, selfishness, and greed. It draws us to the very heart of God and it compels us to give him the best we have and all we possess - our gifts, our time, our resources, our full allegiance, and our very lives. Paul the Apostle tells us that God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given us (Romans 5:5). What can quench such love? Certainly fear, sin, pride, indifference, disbelief, and the loss of hope and trust in God's promises and his mercy towards us.

Do you love me more than these? 
Why did Jesus question Peter's loyalty and love three times in front of the other apostles? It must have caused Peter great pain and sorrow since he had publicly denied Jesus three times during the night of Jesus' betrayal and condemnation by the religious authorities who had sought to kill him. Now Peter, full of grief and deep remorse, unequivocally stated that he loved his master and was willing to serve and obey him whatever it might cost. When Jesus asks him "do you love me more than these?" Jesus may have pointed to the boats, fishing nets, and catch of fish from the night's work. He may have challenged Peter to abandon his work as a fisherman for the task of shepherding the community of God's people. Jesus may have also pointed to the other disciples and to Peter's previous boast: "Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away" (Matthew 26:33). Peter now makes no boast or comparison but humbly responds: "You know that I love you."

We love because he loved us first
The Lord Jesus calls each one of us, even in our own weakness, sins, and failings, to love him above all else. Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD) in his Confession wrote: 

"Late have I loved you, O Beauty so ancient and so new. Late have I loved you! ...You shone your Self upon me to drive away my blindness. You breathed your fragrance upon me... and in astonishment I drew my breath...now I pant for you! I tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst for you. You touched me! - and I burn to live within your peace" (Confession 10:27).

Nothing but our own sinful pride and stubborn wilfullness can keep us from the love of God. He loved us first and our love for him is a response to his exceeding graciousness and mercy towards us. Do you allow God's love to fill your heart and transform your life?

 "Lord Jesus, inflame my heart with your love and burn away everything within it that may be unloving, unkind, ungrateful, unholy, and not in accord with your will. May I always love what you love and reject what is contrary to your love and will for my life."

The Gospel reading for today is one of the most beautiful Bible passages on leadership. Peter is restored to fellowship with Jesus, commissioned, told the cost of service, and then shown the path to a successful ministry.

Before Peter can be a leader, he must be reconciled to Jesus. Earlier in this chapter it says that they ate breakfast around a charcoal fire. It wasn’t just any fire; it was a charcoal fire. John only mentions two charcoal fires in his Gospel. Around the first one, Peter denied Jesus three times. Around this one, Peter declares his love for Jesus three times. Peter must be healed of the events around that first charcoal fire in the purifying presence of Jesus. He had stabbed Jesus in the back. Jesus responds by inviting him to breakfast. No one can effectively lead until they have been purified of those events that the Evil One can use to immobilize them and make them ineffective leaders. I can imagine Peter teaching some young people about faithfulness to Jesus and hear the Evil One whispering in his ear, “You’re a good one to be talking about faithfulness. Don’t you remember that charcoal fire? You denied Jesus three times!” The power of this memory must be broken for Peter to be a bold leader. Jesus breaks it. One by one we must bring our own charcoal fires to Jesus and be healed.

A restored Peter can now be commissioned to serve the people of God. Jesus tells him to feed his lambs and tend his sheep. Pope Francis has made a point to emphasize that you cannot do this from an ivory tower or a closed off office, if that means not being in contact with the sheep. You cannot tend sheep and not get your hands on them. A good shepherd will smell like the sheep and, frankly, sheep stink. They can also get pretty filthy, too. I love the image of the Good Shepherd carrying the sheep that has wandered off from the fold. I was admiring it one day and a friend of mine said, “They cleaned that up.” “What are you talking about,” I responded? He replied, “Have you ever seen the underbelly of a sheep?” He began to describe to this small town boy a sheep that has wandered off and gotten in the muck and the mire of the fields. When the good shepherd picks up that sheep, he’s going to have that muck and mire all over his shoulders. Jesus spent his ministry identifying with sinners. Christian leaders must do the same.

Next, Jesus tells Peter and all leaders the cost of service in his kingdom: death. Peter’s service would end on a Roman cross. Execution may not be the cost for a Christian leader but the only way to be faithful to Jesus is to live a cruciform life and be willing to lay down one’s life for the sheep. And “being crucified” may not come from the hands of outsiders. Sheep can hammer nails, too.

Finally, how can Peter or anyone fulfill this commission? We can work on all of our past charcoal fires and have them cleansed by the Risen Lord. We can learn how to care for others. Tending and feeding can be learned. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can live a cruciform life. But, ultimately, there is only one path that we can walk that will show us how to be Christian leaders. Jesus told Peter and us that path when he said, “Follow me.”

by George Butterfield
Creighton University's Law School Library
click here for photo and information about the writer

Thursday of the Seventh week of Easter - “May they become perfectly one” Saint Matthias, apostle - Feast - Receiving the fullness of God's love and joy

Daily Meditation by(c) 2013 Don Schwager
Bible Story illustrations by publishing.com 

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