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Third Sunday of Easter (C)

My dear encountered couples:

I know that life is precious and fragile. As a priest I have been privileged to be around people at their most vulnerable moments. These last few days I have been sick to my stomach with the shootings and killing of 321 people in Christian churches and hotels in Sri Lanka. As I turned on the television that dreadful day, I wondered, “What is going on? Why? How could anyone do this?”

We all look around for answers. We have been showered with many news programs regarding this sickening event. Why is it that “always” something bad seems to happen before we open our eyes? The vast array of sources or reasons for this terrible incident seems to range from: “parents who are out of touch with their kids, permissive society, guns, Internet, violent movies and video games, neurosis, lack of self-esteem, and lack of respect for human life."

I could go through any of the above possible reasons and make a legitimate argument, but nothing will bring back those who have died, including those who killed the others. But I think we ALL as a society bear some responsibility when something so tragic occurs. It is so easy for us to walk around busy as bees yet not aware of what lies right in front of us. Often many around us cry for help, but we just don't see or hear. The cries can come in many forms from external behavior, appetite or lack of appetite, dress, silence, withdrawal, etc. I am no professional counselor, but I have seen enough of heartaches in children, teenagers and adults that somehow, we must become more pro-active in our relationships with one another.

We must stop putting the blame on the other and begin to take responsibility for that which we do or do not do.

It very sad that word NO seems to be a nasty, a dirty word in today's world. Often, we are afraid to say it to our kids, because of what they might say or do. Many times, we'd rather be their best friend than a strong parent, guardian or friend. In the end, we often lose or our hearts are broken.

I pray that God will give us the strength to be courageous to say what needs to be said and do what needs to be done and to realize that the truly important thing in this world is that we learn from our mistakes. It is the sad person who makes the same mistake twice! We can each think of many lessons that we have learned the hard way, through the mistakes that we have made.

Today we hear the gospel story of Jesus’ return to the disciples who are with Peter in the boat fishing. Jesus appears as a kind of stranger on the shore inviting the men in the boat to cast their nets to the right side and find some fish. That is exactly what happens when the beloved disciple announces to Peter that the stranger is the Lord! Peter jumps into the water and swims to the shore. Jesus invites the disciples to bring some of the fish and share breakfast.

This would be the perfect time for some reorganization, the perfect time to make some changes among the disciples. Surely, Jesus has learned from his mistake in choosing Peter as the leader of the disciples. Now is the perfect time to replace Peter. But Jesus does not replace Peter. Jesus rehabilitates Peter, renews him, and reinstates him. Jesus questions Peter three times about Peter’s love. That is what Jesus wants to bring to the surface – not Peter’s guilt or failure. Jesus wants Peter to acknowledge his love for Jesus. After doing this, after becoming very conscious of his love, he is invited to feed the flock of Jesus.

Has Jesus made a terrible mistake? Has Jesus failed to learn from Peter’s denial and his weakness? Would there not be some other disciple who was stronger than Peter? But Peter is the one – he is the only one that Jesus singles out and commissions. Peter has two things going for him – his memory of his own sin and weakness and his love for Jesus. These will make Peter the perfect disciple and the perfect leader.

Peter’s memory of his own sin and failure will make Peter understanding and compassionate in dealing with the other disciples and with those who come into the company of disciples. Being in touch with his own weakness will help him to be sensitive to the weakness of others.

Peter’s love for the Lord will enable Peter to reach out and express that love to all those whom the Lord entrusts to Peter.

Jesus does not replace. He rehabilitates, renews, and reinstates. That is what Jesus does for us. We fail, we make mistakes, we sin, we do not measure up, and we also love. We are so often that mix – the love is there and yet we fail. We can surely understand Peter.

Jesus wants to do for us what he did for Peter. He wants to surface our love – to bring us here and make us very much aware of the love that is within us. It is our love for God, but it is also our love for others.

We are also aware of our weaknesses, our failings, our sins – and so Jesus brings us to an awareness of his forgiveness. Then we go forth – we go forth to be even stronger in our love, but also even stronger in our understanding and compassion for the weakness of others.

Our biggest failing as disciples is that we forget. We forget what it is like to make mistakes and be forgiven. Parents forget; spouses forget; friends forget – and when we do there is something we are not offering to the other person. We are not offering our compassion and our understanding along with our love.

Peter was the wounded healer. He was wounded by his own denials and weakness – but that made him a better person and leader – he could be understanding with others! We can be wounded healers to one another. We do not need to dwell on the sins of the past, but we need to recognize our wounded-ness enough that we can be understanding and compassionate with those around us. We surface our love as we gather at this table. But this is a love that we must combine with our understanding and compassion as we reach out to children or parents or spouse or co-worker.

Jesus did not replace Peter; Jesus helped Peter learn something more about being a loving and caring disciple. Jesus does not replace us either – he simply renews us and sends us back!

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