17May 17 May. Friday in the Seventh Week of Easter

Acts 25:13ff. Paul, in the Roman prison at Caesarea, explains his case to king Agrippa.

John 21:15ff. Jesus entrusts Peter to shepherd his followers: “Feed my sheep.”

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.”

Following him to the end

As a person gets older, a quiet acceptance of the inevitable seems to be the only option. But to the very end Jesus says, “Follow me!”

After the resurrection when the apostles had returned to their fishing, Jesus appeared to them on the shore of the lake. He singled out Peter and three times asked, “Do you love me?” Peter was no longer the confident, impulsive man of earlier days. He has been humbled by experience and has failed the test, even to the extent of denying Jesus. Now that he has returned to the only occupation he knew, Peter is ready to enter the next stage of his life. He has been sobered by failure and learned compassion from his own need for forgiveness. His heart is now more open to people, for he knows that shares their limitations. Not once, nor twice, but three times Jesus asks the simple question, “Do you love me?” Only when Peter answers with humble love does Jesus commission him to “Feed my sheep.”

Jesus singled out Peter to be the supreme pastor of the Church, but also announced Peter’s future martyrdom: “They will tie you up and take you off against your will.” In the final stage of Peter’s life, the quality of yielding to God’s will and to the desires of others will be clear. And at the point when Peter is helpless he must do as all disciples should: “Follow me.”

We must all pass through these stages of life. From the confidence and vigour of youth – not yet tolerant of weakness in others; then the serious duties of our middle years when we settle down to important tasks of our life; finally the years of retirement, marked to a greater extent by failing capacity, and ending with illness and death. At this stage Jesus repeats his first call to us, “Follow me.” He does not have to ask: “Do you love me?” He knows it and we know it. He says simply, “Follow me!”

One Response

  1. Maire

    Would that Fr Tony and the many others had to stand before King Agrippa, instead of those who prize their position, bureaucracy and clericalism above the demands of their position,they would certainly have been given a fair chance and no doubt would not be in the disgraceful situation the CDF have put them in.


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