Today’s Gospel is one of my two favorite of Jesus’ post-Resurrection appearances: the scene in John 21 where Jesus appears to the disciples on the shore of Galilee.
Jesus is sitting on the beach cooking some fish as the disciples return from their fishing. As he is feeding them breakfast, he asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” Each time, Peter answers yes, the third time with some hurt in his voice.
There are two very important (albeit related) conclusions we can draw about Jesus in that colloquy, both of which have implications for both our relationship to God and our relationship to each other. First, that Jesus doesn’t give up on Peter easily. Second, Jesus accepts what Peter is capable of offering.
In a talk I gave at one of the sessions of a four-week program Bill Nolan and I gave last spring on Jesus’ post-Resurrection, I focused on this dialogue between Jesus and Peter, discussing those two conclusions and their implications for us.
I thought I’d share that podcast again this morning, since it might offer some fruitful reflection on today’s Gospel. You can access a recording of my talk here or stream it from the icon below. (The podcast runs for 27:03. There is a break at about 5:45, where I paused the recorder while we read the Gospel passage aloud and asked participants to share a word or phrase that struck them.)
I think this passage indicates another important truth: the leader, Pope, Prime Minister of the Kingdom or whatever either title Peter and his successors would be given is a fallible human being given supreme authority because if the Church was to endure beyond Christ’s time on earth that would have to be so. Peter was a man and not a god.
One other thought: I think that in St. Peter Christ saw among his strengths his basic humility; no disrespect to St. Paul but it is clear that humility was not one of Paul’s strong points.