In the Maronite Rite: The Fifth Sunday of the Resurrection: Peter receives his ministry
May 19, 2019 at Our Lady of Lebanon in Norman, Oklahoma
Ephesians 2, 1-10 + John 21, 15-19
These verses near the very end of John’s Gospel take us right to the very heart of faith and to the one condition, the one element without which there is no church, no faith, no hope, and no future. In the other Gospels, Peter makes some very profound and courageous acts of faith. Now in John’s Gospel, Peter’s act of faith comes at the end after his courage has been crushed, his pride broken, and all his weakness exposed for all to see. With three questions Peter makes a profound act of faith, and what matters most when it comes to discipleship and leadership is established once and for all. It is not a matter of being perfect. It is not a matter of being consistent. Theology degrees, speaking skills, knowledge of rules and regulations, who you know and who knows you does not matter at all. One thing identifies a companion and a friend of Jesus Christ, love, and Peter has it in spite of all his foolishness, mistakes, and ambitions.
What Jesus looks for in all of us is that love, a love that is greater than loyalty, charity, or sentimentality. It is the kind of love that leads one to surrender everything for the sake of the one loved. As Jesus describes it this is a love that even surrenders one’s freedom and one’s own independence, things we, in this world, prize above all. The kind of love Jesus speaks of finds in Peter and still looks for in us is the kind of love that means you can stretch out your hands and arms and be taken where you might not want to go. This is the kind of love that leads to complete surrender and total self-giving.
Love is the one, supreme condition for each of us who might want to be a disciple of Jesus. It is the one thing that Jesus looks for in us, and he can find it because he has given it to us. Having received this love, we do have it to give. What matters is that we recognize and trust that God’s love for us made manifest in Jesus Christ is real. What gets in the way all too often is a failure to believe, to trust, and to embrace the truth that we are loved and that we are loveable. Why else would Jesus have suffered what he did for us. Was he a fool? If, Peter had said: “Oh no, you can’t love me. I failed to defend you.” Or, “I denied you in front of others when I could have told them the truth.” You see? In the heart of Peter, there rested the love he had been shown and given. He realized that day that he was lovable, that he was good in the eyes of his friend, and the love that had been given to him was real and true drawing him into a relationship that had everything to offer and the promise of eternal life for those who would surrender to the power of that love.
I believe that Jesus looks at each of us today and through the power of a Gospel proclaimed in the context of this Sacred Liturgy he asks one thing of us. He never says, will you be perfect, will you obey the rules, will you always do the right thing, will you always look good, or will you always be happy. His question reveals all that really matters: “Do you love me?” Christ knows from personal experience that this is all that matters.
This love is stronger than hate. This love lifts the soul from the tomb and brings it home. Like laughter, love brings people to tears. Like Christ, love reminds us of where we want to go.