First Reading: Acts 25:13-21
Now when some days had passed, Agrippa the king and Berni’ce arrived at Caesare’a to welcome Festus. And as they stayed there many days, Festus laid Paul’s case before the king, saying, “There is a man left prisoner by Felix; and when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews gave information about him, asking for sentence against him. I answered them that it was not the custom of the Romans to give up any one before the accused met the accusers face to face, and had opportunity to make his defense concerning the charge laid against him. When therefore they came together here, I made no delay, but on the next day took my seat on the tribunal and ordered the man to be brought in. When the accusers stood up, they brought no charge in his case of such evils as I supposed; but they had certain points of dispute with him about their own superstition and about one Jesus, who was dead, but whom Paul asserted to be alive. Being at a loss how to investigate these questions, I asked whether he wished to go to Jerusalem and be tried there regarding them. But when Paul had appealed to be kept in custody for the decision of the emperor, I commanded him to be held until I could send him to Caesar.”
Responsorial Psalm: Psalms 103:1-2, 11-12, 19-20
Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all. Bless the LORD, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, hearkening to the voice of his word!
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.” He 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.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved 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. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go.” (This he said to show by what death he was to glorify God.) And after this he said to him, “Follow me.”
For a long time I read this Bible passage and would get frustrated with Peter—why does our Lord keep asking him repeatedly when Peter has clearly answered the question several times??? But after diving a little deeper and learning a little more behind the language being used (and lost in translation in English), Christ’s reason for asking thrice becomes more clear.
The first two times Christ asks Peter, He uses the word agape—a selfless, wholehearted, unconditional, sacrificial love.
Peter, are you capable of loving me unconditionally, without holding anything back?
Peter always replies with the word phileo—a love based on affection for a person, a friendly love.
Of course, I think you’re an awesome guy, Lord! You’ve done some wonderful things and I admire you greatly!
The third time Christ asks the question, He uses this word: phileo. Peter replies, exasperated, perhaps because he realizes his shortcomings. He realizes he’s not yet capable of this deeper and higher love Christ is calling him too.
Yes, Lord, you know my heart. You know I love you like a brother. I am not yet ready to die for you.
On Good Friday, we saw Peter deny Christ three times. His affection for Christ was not enough to motivate him to die with and for Him. Peter still needed his love for Our Lord elevated to an agape sort of love before he was ready for that sort of commitment. Still, Peter is not ready to love Christ in this way. (Hey, at least he’s honest!)
We, too, are called to this agape love for Christ and for our neighbor in whom we see the face of Christ. It is not easy to achieve. In fact, without Him, it is impossible. Only He is capable of inspiring and elevating our hearts to such a profound gift of self.
But we were made for this self-giving love. We were made to sacrifice for others, to be faithful, to give fully, to love unconditionally.
We come to know this love in the person of Jesus Christ, in His Sacred Heart. As Saint John Paul the Great stated:
“In the heart of Christ, man’s heart learns to know the genuine and unique meaning of his life and of his destiny, to understand the value of an authentically Christian life, to keep Himself from certain perversions of the human heart, and to unite the filial love for God and the love of neighbor.” (emphasis mine)
In Him, we learn and live agape.
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Lord, You sacrificed all for me. Teach me to give all to You, to love You with an agape love, so that I may live and die in You. Amen.
Laurel Muff is a creator and appreciator of beautiful things. She resides with her husband and daughters in Northern California. You can find more about her here.