The second half of today’s Gospel reading from John 21 is, I think, one of the the most moving scenes in the New Testament. After the resurrection, Jesus and Simon Peter are on the beach. They just finished breakfast when Jesus turns to Simon Peter and says, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He asks the question two more times. There’s a little beach on the Sea of Galilee where this took place that is now referred to as the Primacy of Peter. As Catholics, we believe this is where the “deal was sealed” with Peter becoming the first pope, as Jesus told him three times to feed His sheep.
Isn’t it interesting that Jesus refers to him as “Simon?” Why do you think this is? After all, Jesus said when they had first met that he would now be called Peter, the Rock. “You are Peter (Kepha) and upon this rock I will build my Church.” Now, suddenly, Jesus is calling him by his former name, Simon. Could it be because of Simon Peter’s threefold denial of Christ? Because he hadn’t acted like the Rock that he should have been? It’s a fair question.
Jesus wanted to give Simon Peter three opportunities to “undo” his three denials - to make amends. And He did it by asking the same question three times. Do you love me? Can you imagine if Jesus asked that question each time we deny Him? Each time we turn our back on Him? Perhaps we should hear Jesus asking us that question BEFORE we decide to deny Him.
Father, give us the grace and strength to stop turning our back on Jesus. Help us to remember that our love for Him must trump our own selfish desires. Amen.
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