Once again, the thread of today’s Gospel is love. St. Peter is asked three times the question by Jesus, “do you love Me?” And acknowledging Peter’s affirmative response, Jesus directs Peter to do something with that love – care for and shepherd his people. Jesus’ three time profession of love counteracts his three time denial of Christ at the Cross. We look at denial or betrayal as the worst of all possible transgressions we can commit against one another, and there’s no question that there’s a deep sting and pain when we hurt someone we love. But Jesus Himself has a remedy, forgiveness and a chance to start over – then a re-commitment to loving more deeply.
We don’t have to look too far in the world we live in to know that there is a real lack of forgiveness, and I know in my priestly ministry how difficult people find it (myself included) to forgive and let go. But we get no where if we don’t try to. If we give up, we can rest assured that Jesus’ message is going to fall on deaf ears and little by little, bitterness, resentment, hostility, unhappiness, revenge and retribution will take over. Stop and think about those words. I reflected on them as I wrote them, and those are words that are making their way more and more into the Christian’s vocabulary and the Christian’s life, and we can’t let that happen. We must rise above that, we must try to get to the core of what has caused us pain and presentment and allow the Love of Christ to replace the “hole of emptiness” in our hearts that keeps us from true and life-giving love, such as the love Jesus gives Peter, replacing the guilt he felt for his cowardice at the Cross.
Peter is given a new lease on life, but not so that he could keep that to himself but rather to give himself totally and generously for others. Friends, each and every one of us is given a new lease on life today. If we’ve got heavy baggage (of sin and personal weakness) we need to drop that off in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and be rid and free of it. If we’ve done little things that have caused us to love even a little less than we should, then we must let the Word of God enter more deeply into our souls and be refreshed and renewed. Do we love Jesus? Well, of course we do. What do we do now? Spread His Word, His love, His message of hope and joy that brings peace to us on our spiritual journey.
We too are being given a new lease in our lives. We can forgive even the worst of transgressions against us if we trust in the Lord and allow Him to be the one who appreciates and welcomes our forgiving hearts. We are given, a Gift of the Holy Spirit, courage (fortitude) to ask forgiveness of those who we’ve sinned against. Again, even if their hearts won’t allow them to let go, the Lord will free us from our bondage. We are all asked to “sin no more” and to sincerely try to live with deep commitment and integrity.
Let us all do this. Let’s do it by asking Our Lady’s help today as we celebrate her visit in Portugal and to the young disciples in Fatima. What a timely Gospel today, as we turn to Mary who gave her life to others, to the Father through the Angel Gabriel at the Annunciation, to her Divine Son throughout His entire life, and to all Christians after she held Him in her arms at the Cross. Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!