Thu, 6 June 2019
(Acts 25:13-21; Ps.103:1-2,11-12,19-20; Jn.21:15-19)
“When you are older you will stretch out your hands,
and another will tie you fast and carry you off against your will.”
And so the Lord “indicate[s] the sort of death by which Peter was to glorify God.” And by his laying down of his life, this leader of the apostles shall indeed feed the Lord’s sheep.
After “they had eaten their meal,” when there was nothing to distract them – as the apostles gazed at the wonder of the risen Christ before their eyes – the Lord quietly speaks to Peter in the hearing of all. Three times Jesus inquires of His blessed Rock, calling him by his earthly name to assume the name heaven has assigned him. Three times the risen Lord asks, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” and three times Peter must publicly declare his love for God above all things, three times negating his previous denials. It is a simple scene, but beautiful, and remarkably weighty. Not only does Jesus place the care of the Church into this poor apostle’s hands, but He speaks clearly of the sacrifice His Rock must make, teaching him what love of God and care for His people entail… nothing less than death.
And of Paul’s death for the Lord we continue to read. Though the Apostle does not himself appear in our first reading, he is spoken of clearly. Two things we learn of him: first, he is a “prisoner” “kept in custody”; second, the reason for his arrest – he differed with the Jewish leaders “about a certain Jesus who had died but who Paul claimed is alive.” In his imprisonment is Paul’s death and in his profession of the risen Lord he shows his love for God and the people. Here he clearly follows in the steps of Jesus, fulfilling his call from the Lord.
And, brothers and sisters, the call to death, the call to love of the Lord and care for all His children, is all our own. What the Lord speaks to Peter He speaks indeed to all the apostles seated there on the shore in Galilee; and He speaks the same in our hearing today, calling all who would follow Him in the same way. And follow Him we must. It is only by this same sort of death that any of us will come to life; it is only sharing in His cross that we will find the resurrection. We cannot see the risen Lord, nor rise ourselves, if we are not willing to die for Him and with Him.
But do not fear: “The Lord has established His throne in heaven, and His kingdom rules over all.” Neither Festus nor Felix nor King Agrippa nor the Jewish elders can judge Paul, for he is only in God’s hands. And so, though we be dragged to certain crucifixion, the world holds no sway over our souls – the life the Spirit provides and the strength He instills cannot be destroyed. Let us stretch out our hands freely to embrace our blessed Lord and “all His benefits” receive through our sharing in His sacrifice of love.
O LORD, may we declare our love for you
by laying down our lives for you who are above all.
YHWH, you rule over all from your throne in Heaven, and so, though brought before the rulers of this world, what need we fear? Though to death you call us all, we have your blessing to protect us and your Church to feed us along the way. With your Son’s Body and Blood you feed us, and so, again, what need we fear?
It is a blessing to witness to your Name and your Son’s resurrection before the powers that be in this world, for then by your grace we serve to bring your kingdom forth to take its place amongst all. Thank you, O LORD, for this gift you give us, to share in the work of your Christ.
And thank you, LORD, for your call to Peter and His obedience in laying down His life, His following in the path upon which Jesus leads us, that we might know the way we should travel and have the Church’s protection, the food you give us at the hands of the apostles all through our earthly life.