By Matthew Janeczko, OFM Cap.
Each Saturday evening – each Sunday morning – we come into this place, we come to this “gate” in search of healing: healing for our sins, healing for our broken relationships. We seek to be put back into right relationship with God. Even in my first week here at Sacred Heart, the experience of opening and locking the church in the quiet mornings and the still nights, me just a small, scared new priest walking through a giant church, reminds me that whatever happened in the last day pales in comparison to the great love my God feels for me. And the way he feels for you! Yet even when we’re comforted – it seems to me – we all have a little bit of the desperate beggar in us from today’s first reading.
And just like today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles, in response to our needs, God doesn’t give us gold or silver or any other type of quick fix. We don’t get healing in a way that may seem outwardly successful – we may not immediately have our money troubles solved, or have a relationship repaired, or be able to hold our tempers. But what we do get, however, is a constant reminder in this place that God walks with us in these troubles: Jesus didn’t come to us as a magician, but as a companion.
And yet, by the time we get the Gospel, we may doubt ourselves – doubting this goodness of God. Think about it, Jesus asks a rather loaded question to Peter – it seems like Jesus is no different than any of us. A friend has betrayed him, and now, having him right where we want him, pins him down: “do you love me?” Jesus asks three times!
If we really hear the question, however, Jesus may not be asking what we think. It seems that Jesus asks Peter gives more than everybody else. As in – prove it Peter – prove that you’re not a bum. (We know that game, don’t we?)
But what I really think Jesus is getting at is asking Peter if he loves him more than all of the other promises that life has made him: the fishing business, the laughs you have at the local tavern, the life that you used to live, the fame that you have as the leader of the disciples – is the love that you have, Jesus asks Peter, greater than these things that pass away?
This really cuts to the heart of today’s feast: neither Peter nor Paul was perfect but both heard the question that Jesus asked, “do you love God more than what doesn’t last?” and acted.
And so, we’re asked a question this week in our Scriptures: whether we’re students starting on summer break, newly ordained priests, concerned parents and people looking for a promotion so that we can make ends meet – for all of the question is the same, but our answers will be different.
In a sense, as we begin this summer in earnest, the readings give us a great opportunity to reexamine our lives and to see how we’re doing – to see – what do we love more than Christ – or, put in a positive way, where are those places where Christ has taken over, where Christ has bid us to stand up and walk?
In the conversation with Peter, Jesus tells him to tend and feed the sheep: the question becomes, how are we feeding ourselves on a regular basis? And, directly connected to that, how are we tending to the needs and cares of others?
I think we have then, two challenges this week: (1) let’s find a place where we’re not feeding ourselves, too busy for prayer, been away from confession for a while, and make an effort to fix it; and (2) think about someone who needs our tending who we’ve forgotten and reach out to them this week.
We sit now by the gate waiting to again be met by the name of Jesus: let us jump as someone healed, approach this altar and then leave here, still praising God in our words and actions for all to hear.