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050519 Third Sunday in Easter - Fr. Reggie

The Lord has given Peter a job, and he expects Peter to do it. But Peter has proven himself unworthy; he denied Jesus three times in the house of the High Priest on the night Jesus was handed over. When Jesus needed him most, Peter turned away from him. What is Jesus’ response? Does he take away the leadership position from Peter and give it to someone else? Hasn’t John shown that he is better suited to be the leader of the apostles, to be the rock Jesus can build his Church on? He never ran away or denied Jesus, even when the High Priest, knowing John was also a disciple, could easily have killed him along with Jesus. Yet Jesus does not take the job away from Peter and give it to John. Rather, he turns to Peter again and expresses his confidence in him.

Peter had a deep love for Jesus, but not deep enough. On the night of the Last Supper, he thought he was capable of dying for Jesus, but he was wrong. When the test came, Peter came up short. Like Peter, we tend to overestimate our readiness to follow Jesus. We do fine under ordinary circumstances, but when difficult moments come – temptations, opposition, even persecution – we fail. Like Peter, we come up short. We love the Lord, but not enough. Jesus’ reaction to us is the same: He does not lose confidence in us. Neither does he let us off the hook. He expects us to grow into the job.

What is Peter’s shortcoming? He doesn’t love Jesus enough. His love was real, but there were still things greater than his love – his fear for instance. On the night of the Last Supper, he ran away when Jesus was arrested. He denied Jesus three times. In each instance, his fear was greater than his love. To be the first Pope, he needed greater love than that. He needed a love without limits. That is why Jesus asks him three times: “Do you love me?” He is telling Peter that the qualification for the job is unlimited love. Peter has to have an unlimited love to be the rock on which Jesus builds his Church. Jesus is not letting him off the hook. He isn’t giving the job to someone else. Peter has to get that love, just as I have to develop an unlimited love to qualify for the tasks in life that Jesus has given me.

 

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