7th Week of Easter, Friday
Chapter 21 in the Gospel of St. John comes in like an “appendix,” as the writer already concluded his account in the previous chapter. The wisdom and marvels in the life of Jesus are uncountable, the Evangelist tells us, but thankfully he decided to add the beautiful and touching scenes at the Sea of Tiberias.
After the wondrous miracle of the unbroken net full of fish, and breakfast served by the resurrected Lord, Jesus turns to Peter and asks him three times, “Do you love me?” Jesus knows and loves Peter to the last detail, and sees the great potential in him. As the spokesman and leader of the apostles, Peter has an “all or nothing” character.
At the Last Supper, it was not enough for him to have his feet washed; he offered his hands and his head as well. Then afterwards, lacking self-knowledge, he declared that he was ready to die with Jesus. Peter is an earnest, wholehearted friend on a journey to spiritual maturity. Jesus does not remind Peter of his denials; his own tears were enough. Instead, by having him affirm his love for him three times, he gave Peter a chance to start afresh.
Peter is also given the special mission to feed and tend Christ’s sheep as the first chief shepherd of the flock. Peter (Petros/Cephas) is the “rock” upon whom Christ would build his church “and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”
Strengthened by the mercy of his threefold “yes” to Jesus, and filled with the Holy Spirit nine days after the Ascension, Peter took up his task marvelously with his first homily at Pentecost.
The ever active and ardent Peter will get his wish fulfilled to die for Christ. With his martyrdom foretold, the beloved Peter hears the happy words of his Lord, “Follow me.”