By Father Patrick Longalong
We are now entering the third week of the Easter season. The readings at daily Mass reflect how the disciples of Jesus are processing the meaning as well as the implications of our Lord’s resurrection.
Reflecting on these daily scripture texts for me are encouraging since they capture an ongoing conversion that each of us should have in our daily relationship with God. Sometimes we become complacent with what we already know, but there is still much more that the Lord wants us to understand. This ongoing conversion opens us to the transformative power of the Holy Spirit.
Today’s Gospel focused on Peter, who was being prepared to take on the great responsibility of leading the Church. He was chosen not because he was perfect but because of the humility he possessed. Peter was able to recognize and accept his own weaknesses. It is in this that he was able to access the mystery of God’s mercy and slowly go deeper in his love for the Lord.
Jesus as teacher did not just hand Peter the authority to govern but made him understand what is expected and who he is doing this for. There is still much more conversion that has to take place in Peter in order for him to lead a group of what would be called “fishers of men.”
Jesus’ dialogue with Peter confronted his denial during the Lord’s passion. I am sure that many of us can relate to this dialogue.
Maybe we might not have explicitly asked the question, but in our hearts, how often have we asked someone, “Do you love me?” And have we continued to ask further questions for clarification: “How much do you love me? What are you willing to do to show that you love me?”
Biblical scholars have had many discussions on the exchange between Jesus and Peter. It would only make sense for us who read it in the English text to look into the original Greek words that Jesus and Peter used in the conversation.
Two different terms for “love” were used. In his first two questions, Jesus used the word “agapao” that we later use to identify with the New Commandment the Lord gave us. Peter tried to avoid the Lord’s expectation by using another, less demanding term for love (phileo).
In the third question, Jesus asked using the less demanding term Peter used. It was in this instance that Peter realized his own shortcomings. He knew that he could not yet give the type of love the Lord wanted from him, which made him “distressed.”
Our Mass today opened with the first reading describing the beginning of many persecutions our brothers and sisters will have to endure in witnessing to our faith in the Risen Lord. Many were told to be silent and many will eventually shed their blood in witness to the Gospel. I am sure that many also started not being ready to demonstrate that type of love for the Lord, but in the face of great suffering, we begin to understand what is most important. We witness to our faith in the Risen Lord by following His mandate to “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34)
When we love others, we uphold what is just and right. We build a community that is compassionate, enriching and protects the dignity of human life.
There are times when we are faced with persecution doing what Jesus commanded us to do. Let us find strength in the last line of the first reading today: “So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.” And that name is Jesus.
Readings for Third Sunday of Easter
Acts 5:27-32, 40b-41
John 21:1-19 or 21:1-14
Father Longalong is the pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes, Queens Village, and coordinator of the Ministry to Filipino Immigrants.