“Peter was distressed that Jesus had said to him a third time, ‘Do you love me?’”

A third encounter between Jesus and some disciples is the scene of today’s gospel passage (Jn 21:1-19).  Simon Peter says he is going fishing and six other disciples decide to join him.  After a futile night of fishing, Jesus (at this point unrecognized by them) asks them from the shore if they caught anything.  They respond in the negative, thus prompting Jesus to tell them to cast their nets once more.  The nets are filled to breaking when they do so.  Peter then recognizes Jesus and swims to Him.  By the time the rest come with the catch, Peter and Jesus are already cooking by a fire and Jesus serves them all breakfast.  When finished eating, Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves Him.  Peter answers in the affirmative each time.  Jesus then tells Peter that when he is old he will be taken away against his will (John notes that this is a prediction of the way Peter is to die a martyr).  Jesus finally tells Peter to follow Him.  It is commonly held that Jesus threefold asking of Peter “Do you love me?” in front of a charcoal fire is meant to counter Peter’s threefold denial of Jesus (as the latter predicted — Mt 26:34) in front of a charcoal fire just days earlier (Mt 26:69-75).  At least at the time, this appears to be lost on Peter who becomes “distressed” at the questioning as we see above.  Nonetheless, Peter becomes a stalwart evangelizer for Christ as we see beginning in Acts (see chapter two beginning at verse fourteen).  Jesus wants to know from us if we love Him.  This is not a mere matter of lip service on our part.  Do our actions reflect that love?  Would we be distressed if Jesus came to us today and asked us if we love Him?  We would be wise to recall those times we deny or betray Him by our words and deeds.  When we profess Christianity but do not act accordingly we diminish Christ and ourselves to others.  Is this the way we show our love?  Yet He is always waiting for our return to Him in Confession, where He not only accepts a sincere apology but is ever ready to pour out graces to the heart disposed to receive them.  What was the change that happened between the episode related today and Acts 2?  The outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4).  We should ask for that same Spirit to fill us and provide the strength to eliminate sin from our lives and the courage to stand by our Christian convictions.  Come Holy Spirit!  Fill our hearts and the world with love.

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