25th May. Friday of the 7th Week of Easter
Acts 25:13ff. Paul, in prison at Caesarea, explains his predicament to king Agrippa.
John 21:15ff. Jesus entrusts Peter with the responsibility: “Feed my sheep.”
A Sacred Trust
In our more active days, with many possibilities opening out before us, we fail at times to choose what is best. This also happened to the apostle Peter. Three times out of fear he denied Jesus (Mark 14:66-72). After the resurrection when the apostles had returned to their former trade of fishing, seemingly because their vision of Jesus had evaporated in his death, Jesus appeared to them. He singled out Peter and three times asked, “Do you love me?” Peter no longer seems to be the impulsive, dominant man of his earlier days. He has felt humiliation, he has failed even to the extent of betraying Jesus, he has returned to the only occupation which he could manage. Peter has been sobered by failure and is ready to enter the next stage of his life. He has learned compassion by his own need for forgiveness and mercy. This is the kind of man who can lead the Church. Not once, not twice, but three times Jesus asks and insists, “Do you love me?” When Peter answers with humble love, with total surrender, “Lord, you know everything,” then Jesus commissions him to “Feed my sheep.”
Moving out from Jerusalem, Peter summons his energy and moves to Antioch and then to Rome. Love, humility, compunction and obedience to the Lord are to be the hallmarks of his ministry. As such, he is the rock of the Church and head of the apostolic band. Even though Peter acts with all his power, still there is a quality of patience about that exercise: to love and to be loved, to be humble and open to others in their ideas and talents, to be sorrowful for sin and able to appreciate the weakness of others, to obey Jesus at all costs. This is the kind of authentic Petrine ministry that the Church needs to maintain and pray for. Jesus not only singled out Peter from all the apostles but called him particularly to “Feed my sheep.” He was to be the supreme pastor of the Church.
Jesus does not have to ask us: “Do you love me?” He knows it and we know it. He says simply, “Follow me!” Like Peter we respond with our entire self, lovingly, actively, making a gift of our entire self to Jesus.
First Reading: Acts 25:13-21
After several days had passed, King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea to welcome Festus. Since they were staying there several days, Festus laid Paul’s case before the king, saying, “There is a man here who was left in prison by Felix. When I was in Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me about him and asked for a sentence against him. I told them that it was not the custom of the Romans to hand over anyone before the accused had met the accusers face to face and had been given an opportunity to make a defense against the charge. So when they met here, I lost no time, but on the next day took my seat on the tribunal and ordered the man to be brought. When the accusers stood up, they did not charge him with any of the crimes that I was expecting. Instead they had certain points of disagreement with him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, who had died, but whom Paul asserted to be alive. Since I was at a loss how to investigate these questions, I asked whether he wished to go to Jerusalem and be tried there on these charges. But when Paul had appealed to be kept in custody for the decision of his Imperial Majesty, I ordered him to be held until I could send him to the emperor.” Agrippa said to Festus, I would like to hear the man myself.” “Tomorrow,” he said, “you will hear him.”
Gospel: John 21:15-19
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”