Success: a gift to help others
Today’s Gospel reading is a very touching revelation of how God reconciled with the disciples, Peter in particular, after they abandoned/betrayed Jesus during his crucifixion. God is teaching us how gentle She is when you and I have run away.
How do we run away from Jesus Christ? When we stop imitating Jesus:
patient, forgiving, compassionate, respectful, treating sex as sacred and beautiful.
After reflecting on the first reading, I suspect the second reading for today was chosen, as an encouragement to us when we face opposition: persevering in the Truth, will be rewarded with honour, some time in the future (not just when we die!).
The second reading reminds me of what happens when sportsmen and women are successful in their sport: all the hard work, sacrifices, etc. are rewarded by the feeling of success, and the admiration and praise of others around them.
It’s a way of encouraging people to try for the best. Unfortunately, some successful people simply use the praise and rewards to exalt themselves above other people. But, in our Christian story, we know that the success of Jesus Christ was used by God to save all of us.
I highly recommend the exciting true movie: “The Scarlet and the Black”. Set in World War II at the Vatican, it pitted an Irish priest against the head of the Gestapo (secret police). The Irish priest used his Diplomatic Immunity to rescue many Jewish people and escaped prisoners of war around Rome. Many times he was almost caught. But, like the first Apostles, he never stopped “speaking” the truth by his actions to save innocent lives. After the War he was decorated by many nations around the world for his heroic actions. AND, he was the only visitor to the Gestapo chief in prison (who became a Catholic 14 years later).
In Kenya right now, we pray the Bishops will stand up for the children trapped in slave labour in a goat slaughter-house just outside of Nairobi: at Kayamaiko. The Religious Superiors just concluded an investigation: hundreds of Ethiopian children are smuggled over the border, trucked down to Nairobi at night and put to work: the parents understand the children are under guardians who will help them to be educated and get work later.
When we are young, especially, there are many sexual temptations we struggle with. The Church has been good at giving rules on how to behave (and I believe they are valid): don’t touch; don’t practice until marriage, not with the same sex, etc.
But, upon reflection, and others have made the same observation, the Church has been less energetic and effective in helping young people understand their sexual desires, sexuality in general, and how to live a balanced life to avoid bad consequences.
It’s particularly more urgent in these so called “modern” times, because many societal norms (boundaries) have been removed, and the media bombard us all with images that arouse sexual thoughts in print, on TV and on radio. It’s almost impossible to escape!
The result is that many young people end up confused, ashamed and find themselves in an unhappy place. Today’s readings are equally for us when we fail.
Let us take the image of Peter’s reaction to hearing that “it is the Lord”:
He tries to cover up (ashamed), and he jumps in the water. My interpretation is that he was trying to delay his meeting with Jesus: the friend, mentor and Saviour whom he had betrayed.
How often people feel the same when approaching the sacrament of Reconciliation. We make excuses why we “can’t make it” this week, or we “cover up” when we enter.
To the apostles who “betrayed” him, Jesus invites them for a meal and prepares the meal himself. Jesus cannot say more loudly: “it’s OK, I understand; I still love you.”
So, especially to our youth, I pray you will be guided by the Church teaching so that you may have a happier life both today and tomorrow. But, especially, I pray that we will not be afraid to seek Reconciliation if we fail. The occasions of Reconciliation help us to take responsibility for our past actions and provide encouragement to avoid them in the future.
Don’t run away from the Church in shame, or frustration. Remember the courage of the Apostles, of Jesus: we all need to persevere and sacrifice personal pleasures today,
so we can encounter true love and joy tomorrow.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI