3rd Sunday of Easter, Year C (2022): Jn 21:1-19

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Homily Notes for the 3rd Sunday of Easter, Year C (2022): Jn 21:1-19

·  Do you love me? We have all asked this question of someone and received a variety of responses in return, from the ecstasy of being told yes, I love you to the agony of being told I do not love you. It is a risk to ask the question but one that must be asked to know we are truly alive and a heart is beating within our chests.

·  This is the only time in all of the Gospels that Jesus asks this question of someone. And he asks it of someone he cares about very much and whose response to his question will determine how the early Church would begin to take shape and develop over the centuries.

·  Many of the Church Fathers commented that the reason three times St Peter was asked if he loved the Lord as a means to forgive and wash away the shame of having three times denied being Jesus’ disciple. The questions were much more for the good of St. Peter than they were for Jesus to be affirmed that St Peter really did love him, since Jesus already knew St Peter’s heart and the sorrow, shame and desire for reconciliation that he wanted to make for what was among the greatest betrayals of human history, yet one Jesus was willing to unconditionally forgive.

·  St. Peter’s responses to the Lord’s question about whether or not he loved Him is also very telling on how St. Peter will be totally honest with Jesus, since his reply back to Christ of Yes Lord you know that I love you is not immediately understood in its meaning to the English speaker. Remember, St. John’s Gospel was written in Greek and the Greek language has three words for love: Eros, Philia and Agape.

·  Eros is romantic and erotic love and this is not the word St. Peter used to express his love for Jesus. Instead, when asked by Jesus if he loved him with Agape love, that is, total love that gives oneself for the good of another unconditionally, St Peter honestly replies back that he loves Jesus with philia, that is, the love one would have for a brother or close friend. Jesus accepts his love but asked again does he love him with agape, to which St Peter replies again I love you Lord like a brother. The third time Jesus asked does he love him with philia love, no longer requesting for agape. This is why St Peter felt hurt to be asked a third time, not only as a painful reminder of the three-fold denial he once made, but that Jesus is now asking him to be loved like a brother and not that total unconditional love that is the best love of all.

·  St. Peter was honest that at that point in his heart he could not love Jesus totally and unconditionally but with the love of friendship, yet we can speculate that he knew deeply within that to love Jesus with agape would be the greatest joy and most perfect way to honour the one whom He denied and was forgiven.

·  But Jesus knew that the time would come when St Peter would love him unconditionally. That love began to form after Pentecost, where we see in the First Reading today a new Peter, one filled with courage, zeal and willingness to speak boldly; for the Holy Spirit was with him and was teaching him how to love with Agape.

·  That Love would grow over the years as St. Peter began his charge as leader of the Church, a love that would be poured forth through many years of hard work and reach its culmination in the city of Rome when St Peter would not run away from the cross he once ran from in Jerusalem, but would fulfill the prophecy of Our Lord that as an old man his arms would be stretched out by another along the wood of a cross, and upside down he would die for Jesus and finally be able to say to Jesus that I do love you, with my entire heart and no longer just like a friend but unconditionally with everything that I am.

·  That love would then reign within him for all eternity when he would be numbered among the elders we read about today in the Book of Revelation who stand before the throne of the Lamb and delight in the greatest joy of all: being with God and never at any moment feeling separate from him or any of the sadness that mark our lives on earth.

·  Jesus will continue to ask you and I if we love Him. It maybe we are able to say I love you Lord, but like a friend. He will accept that Love but will not be satisfied with it, for He wants us to love him completely, not because He needs to be loved, but because he knows the supreme happiness we will experience when we love him unconditionally and with the best love we can offer.

·  It may take a lifetime to love him in this way, but that is a life worth living, so let us not be afraid to love him with so great a love…