10th April – Third Sunday of Easter (C)

If you would like to read commentary on the pope’s recent letter on the family synod, click on this link: http://www.catholicculture.org/news/headlines/index.cfm?storyid=28023

Consider the latter portion of today’s gospel from John 21: After the meal Jesus said to Simonjesus_peter070811_01 Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others do?’ He answered, ‘Yes Lord, you know 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 replied, ‘Yes, Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Look after my sheep.’ Then he said to him a third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was upset that he asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ and said, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know I love you,’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.

I see this passage as the first instance of the sacrament of reconciliation (Confession) being celebrated. It also illustrates what the sacrament is all about.

One might think that Jesus would have read Peter the riot act for having betrayed him on Good Friday morning. Instead he asks him for a 3 fold profession of love for the 3 times he betrayed him. Furthermore Jesus focuses on the future rather than on the past by telling Peter to get on with the business of looking after the flock: Feed my sheep.

When Peter responds to Jesus’ question “Do you love me?” he doesn’t give a completely definite YES. Instead he says “You know I love you.” Peter’s self-confidence has been shaken by his failure on Good Friday morning. He is only committing himself to doing his best to love Jesus – something that Jesus is surely aware of.

Another aspect of this beautiful passage is invisible to the English reader. In the Greek of the New Testament there are 3 words for love: agape (sacrificial love), philos (platonic love, like between good friends), and eros (erotic love as between the sexes). The first time that Jesus asks Peter “Do you love me?” he uses the word agape. Peter unsure of his capacities answers that he loves Jesus philos. The second exchange is the same. When Jesus asks the question the third time, he comes down to the level that Peter is at by asking “Do you love me (philos)?” Jesus relates to us in the same way.

If Judas had trusted in Jesus’ goodness like Peter, he too could have been similarly reconciled.