May 1, 2022
When I read the Gospel story last week, I said that it was the conclusion to the Gospel according to John, the original conclusion.
Today, we read a second story, like an appendix. Whoever wrote this story is not clear when it was added. However, the story is saying: “There is one more thing that needs to be said.”
What is the one more thing that needs to be said about the Jesus Story?
The first author of the Gospel tells us that what he has put together is like a thumbnail sketch of Jesus’ life and its impact. Much more could have been written and shared by the eyewitnesses to the Risen Jesus.
This new conclusion – an added story, says the same thing; “if all were written down,” this new author writes, “the world itself… would not hold all the books that would have to be written.”
I think that this story is about the unfinished business of our lives, the words that needed to be said, the fences that needed to be mended, and the putting of our personal houses in order. Often, have I heard such regret – at funerals.
So, Jesus and Peter had to clarify their relationship. They had to re-establish their relationship. Just because Jesus rose from the dead does not evaporate what happened before. The three egregious moments where Peter betrayed Jesus by declaring that he never knew him.
I think we all know when we have failed someone or a situation. How do we get out of the mess we have created and how do we repair the rupture of a true relationship?
Who should speak first? What do I say? How do I apologize? Will the person talk to me again? On and on, we go with our self-doubts and fears. Because of our feelings of inadequacy and shame and fears of rejection, many people never take the first step toward reconciliation.
Jesus and Peter have their last chance in this story today. So, if you decide that it is time to reconcile with someone, “suck it up,” your feelings of embarrassment, your guilt for what may be “your part” in it all, and make the phone call or send an email. Having breakfast, coffee or lunch may be a good idea – like Jesus did it – less threatening, more casual. We can only imagine what was going on in the minds of Jesus, Peter and the others – who would speak first? Will it be brought up? I don’t know what to say next.
So, begin the conversation and the Holy Spirit will lead. A conversation might start with an apology – each one.
Peter had a lot to be sorry for. Jesus probably would have said that he thought Peter would have been a bit more supportive. I think that we would see tears in Peter’s eyes at that point, and I think that we would see Jesus reach across their space to place his hand on Peter’s shoulder or around his neck.
The story does not tell us how long they talked and shared, or how many tears were shed. What it does tell us is how the conversation ended. Jesus asked Peter, at least three times, if he really loved him and wanted to continue to be a leader in his community of friends.
All that Jesus tells him is to be a person who feeds others, tends to the needs of others. I am sure that he told Peter that he needed to personalize his reaching out to others, and in the future, not to betray the love of the Spirit that he was giving to him.
Here is the problem that I have seen over 55 years of ministry. Catholics believe a lot of ideas about Jesus and his teachings but they often contradict them by what they say or how they behave.
It all starts out as little children. We learn our catechism, we memorize our prayers, and then we fight with each other, disrespect our parents, and act very selfishly. Where’s the love, where’s the forgiveness, where is the connecting of our lives with the love of Jesus?
So, I would say a word to our dear parents and grandparents: I would encourage you to be the first to call your family together, to apologize to each other, to share about what is missing, and to share about how everyone can work together for a better family spirit.
Nothing improves if there is no conversation and a kind of a conversation where everyone can be honest, express their grievance and share their pain. Jesus was calling Peter to a greater honesty and wholeness. He was inviting Peter to a deeper kind of loyalty that “supported and did not take down.”
Too often, members of a family live like little islands, competing with one another. Each member of a family contributes to the well-being of the family. Parents, a word of caution: all the work and money that you think you may need is no substitute for the time being together, and wanting to know how to be helpful and loving to each other.
Following Jesus, his last words to us today are more than a truth, or a rule. How would we answer the question if a family member asked us today: “Do you love me?”