Love as the condition of authority


Love as the condition of authority

Each reading today calls us to live out our faith in the risen Lord in a particular way. The first reading calls us to be courageous witnesses to Christ the Lord. Peter declares that the Sanhedrin’s warning to stop preaching about Jesus must yield to a higher call to witness in the Spirit whom the living God has given to them. The second reading affirms that the proper response to Easter is to give glory and praise to the Lord who sits on the throne. Saint Augustine told us that we are an Easter people and alleluia is our daily song.

Today’s Gospel reading begins as a night scene of failure with no fish caught. Then the sun rises and as they approach the shore with disappointment, someone calls and addresses them as “Children.” Then the stranger tells them to let down their nets and here emptiness is filled with a great catch. Then, with the sun rising and the dawn of faith breaking, the disciples whom Jesus loves, sees and proclaims with deference to Peter, “It is the Lord.” Hearing John’s proclamation, Peter plunges into the water and makes his way to Jesus. Again, we are all reminded that the way to the risen Lord is through the waters, through the baptism into which we are all plunged.

When they come to the shore, the disciples are invited to have breakfast at a charcoal fire on which bread and fish are cooking. Jesus tells them to bring some of the fish that they have just caught and again it is Peter in his leadership role, who rushes to haul in the net. The word used for “haul” is the same word that John used to describe how the Father will “draw” people to Jesus (John 6:44). And how Jesus will “draw” others to himself when he is exalted on the cross (John 12:32). Such a “hauling” or “drawing” is the pastoral effort which Peter is to make as leader of the universal Church.

Peter, sobered by his denial of Jesus three times, does not now declare that he is capable of being more faithful than the others. As he denied Jesus three times, three times he is called upon to declare his true love.  More responsibility demands more love, so before what is to be a second spring of Peter’s discipleship, Jesus takes him back into the winter of his failure.  When Jesus asks Peter if he loves him, Peter humbly offers his love to Jesus. But he knows now that he can no longer be self-confident. He now realizes that he does not know himself fully, and only Jesus can know him and strengthen him. So now, three-times repeated as a pastoral dialogue of love, the broken covenant between Jesus and Peter is renewed. Thus, he is commissioned to assume the role of shepherd in the place of Jesus. He is transformed into a truly good shepherd who can show compassion and love to those who have failed. This dialogue of love and forgiveness must always be held in the memory of the Church especially when the sheep and lambs have strayed. Truly, as shepherd, Peter will suffer a fate very similar to that which Jesus suffered.

Just as Peter was transformed into a servant leader, each of us, plunged as we are in the waters of baptism, and drawn into our own covenant-life with Jesus, must consider how we, like Peter, are being asked to “haul” or “draw” others into that same ultimate experience of eternal life through faith in Jesus. What is our call? Is it to marriage, to the single life, to religious life, to the life of a priest? One thing is certain – we are being called. It is up to us to discern the nature of that call that will lead to the fulness of life.

By Susai Jesu, OMI
Vocation Team – West