for Sunday, May 1, 2022
"Worthy is the Lamb that was slain
to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength,
honor and glory and blessing."
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth
and under the earth and in the sea,
everything in the universe, cry out:
"To the one who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor, glory and might,
forever and ever."
The four living creatures answered, "Amen,
"and the elders fell down and worshiped."
And he called to them from the shore. A few weeks after the Resurrection, the
disciples had returned to their lives, perhaps waiting for the Lordís instructions. The
One who they knew was the One, called to them. Put out your nets on the starboard
side. After a fruitless night with nothing to show, they suddenly had a huge amount of
fish. This happened before when Peter and Andrew, James and John were first called.
The One who was Worthy was calling them again.
The Beloved Disciple calls out, "It is the Lord," and Peter swims out from his
boat to the shore. Once more Peter finds himself by a fire being asked questions
about his loyalty to Jesus. The first time this happened was around that fire in the
courtyard of the Sanhedrin on Good Friday when Peter denied the Lord three times.
This time he reaffirms the Lord three times. But that is not enough. He has to do
something about his faith. He has to feed the Lord's sheep. Later on in the chapter we
hear about Peter's eventual death, being made to stretch out his arms
and go where he did not want to go. After that there is going to be a few comments
about the Beloved Disciple, most probably John, who had been entrusted with Mary
under the cross.
John and Peter, Peter and John. One the ideal disciple, the other a disciple
constantly at war with his own humanity. John was the ideal disciple. He was the
only one of the twelve who did not desert the Lord at the Passion. He was the first of
the Twelve to believe in the Resurrection. He was loving, trusting and faithful. Peter
was the disciple who said one thing and then did another. He was full of bravado until
his fear kicked in. He was a leader, but a flawed leader. Still, he made the decision to
turn back to the Lord and was willing to accept all sorts of hardship and death to
proclaim the Gospel. Peter would eventually journey to Rome, the center of the then
known world. He would be arrested there and killed. Tradition says that Peter was
crucified with his head down. George Weigel in his Letters to a Young Catholic
suggests that the huge obelisk that stands in St. Peters Square used to be in the
center of the Nero's Circus where the early Christians were tortured to death. It could
very well have been the last thing that Peter focused on before his death. It is the first
thing that a new pope sees when he assumes the Chair of Peter and greets the people
on the balcony of the Basilica of St. Peters in the Vatican.
We would all like to be disciples like John, always faithful and true, so full of love
that we recognize the Lord wherever he is, so courageous that we are willing to risk our
lives to stand beneath his cross. In reality, though, we are all more like Peter rather
than John. At least we are more like Peter when we are at our best. Peter had to
struggle with his own humanity, his fear, his impetuousness, but still, he was a true
disciple. We continually struggle with our own humanity. We have many temptations
to sin. We give in sometimes and then hate what we become. But with the
compassion and love of the Lord, we can turn away from all that is black and turn to
the Lord. We have to turn to the Lord. He calls us to feed his sheep.
We need to eliminate the unrealistic expectations we thrust upon ourselves and
others. We grow up having everyone tell us that we are so good, and as little children
we might believe that, but when reality kicks in at adolescence and throughout our
lives, we tend to get so negative about ourselves that we consider giving up. So we
don't stand for the Lord because we don't see ourselves as good enough.
We forget, He makes us good enough. He makes us infinitely better than we can
He makes others infinitely better too. When we were little, we were convinced
that our parents were perfect. Then, somewhere in adolescence, we realized that they
were not perfect. For many that was hard to take. The loss of their ideals blinded
them to their parents' virtues. Many young people act as though their parents are the
most imperfect people in the world. Maybe we all did that when we were kids. Mark
Twain said, as you know, when he was young he was convinced that his father was a
fool, but when he became an adult he marveled at how wise his father had become.
The change was not in his father, it was in Mark Twain's recognition of his father's
virtues over his flaws. Applying this to the spiritual life, there are times that we see the
imperfections of individuals and are blinded to their virtues. We think that others
should be like John, when we should be pleased that they are like Peter. We think we
should be like John, when we should thank God for the times that we are like Peter.
Peter's threefold affirmation of the Lord wasn't just to renounce his three denials
of the Lord. He was asked to live his faith by feeding the Lord's flock. Jesus does not
call us to affirm His Presence in our lives for ourselves. He calls us to give witness to
His Presence for others. This is difficult at times. We choose to serve Christ by
avoiding evil and by sacrificing ourselves for others. Both give witness to the Life within
us that is more important than physical life. Being a Christian means proclaiming
Christ with our lives. Maybe that means talking with a hurting friend when you would
rather be doing something else. Maybe that means going to a wake or a funeral when
you would rather be doing anything else. Perhaps that means training a young man or
woman who someday will take your job. Maybe that means helping someone in school
who might end up beating you out for a scholarship, a position in a med school, etc.
Maybe that means helping a person who needs the help but is rather obnoxious. It
makes no difference, if we really do love the Lord, we are going to feed His sheep.
When we recite the creed we proclaim that we are members of one, holy,
Catholic and apostolic church. We are called to be apostles. Yes it would be
wonderful if we could be ideal apostles like John, but we are real people like Peter.
And like Peter, despite our limitations, we can feed the Lord's sheep.
Readings of the day:
First Reading: Acts 5.28-32, 40b-41
Second Reading: Revelation 5.11-14
Gospel: John 21.1-19
This material is used with permission of its author, Rev. Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino, Diocese of St. Petersburg, FL. Visit his
Reflections are available for the following Sundays: