Jesus and Peter and You

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In the first reading today from Acts 25, Paul is in Caesarea awaiting trial. He is asked if he wants to go to Jerusalem to have his case heard. Paul declines, knowing that God is sending him to Rome. So Paul appeals his case to the Emperor. Our Gospel reading is from John 21, one of the most moving stories in all of Scripture.

Jesus had just finished having breakfast with the disciples on the beach, after His resurrection. He then turns his attention to Peter. “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.” This happens two more times, three total. Of course, we know that Jesus was giving Peter a chance to recant his threefold denial of Christ. And Catholics believe that Jesus’ threefold admonition to “Feed my sheep,” cemented Peter’s position of primacy among the Apostles.

“Do you love me?” Can you imagine if Jesus had to ask that question every time you denied Him? Let’s just say that in my case, it would perpetually be on His lips. But what if we pictured Jesus asking us that question every time we are about to sin? Do you think that would give us pause, perhaps even reconsider our ways? Why wait until after we deny Him?

Father, you know that we love Jesus. Give us the grace to stop denying Him in our own lives. Amen.

Today’s Readings

1 comment

  • Carl: May 21, 2021

    I grew up with the explanation that Jesus asked Peter three times as being symbolic of Peter denying Him three time. Only recently did I learn from a young man, who is contemplating entering the seminary (and is fluent if Latin and a student of Greek), an explanation offered by one of his professors while on a trip to the Holy Land.

    The first two times, Jesus uses the word “agape” (unconditional love) and Peter responds with “philia” (friendship). He said it could be compared to one saying “I love you” and the other replying “I like you too.” Not quite the same!

    Those who dig into the Greek text of John 21 quickly discover that John uses two different words for “love.” Jesus’ first two questions use the word agape. Jesus’ third question and all three of Peter’s responses use the word philia.

    “Do you love (agape) me?”
    “Yes, Lord, you know that I love (philia) you.”
    “Do you love (agape) me?”
    “Yes, Lord, you know that I love (philia) you.”
    “Do you love (philia) me?”
    “You know that I love (philia) you.”

    Peter was not yet able to commit to the unconditional love that Jesus asked for – and offered.

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