Sunday, April 08, 2007
Feed My Sheep - Follow Me
It's no secret that I used to be a bad Catholic...rather, I was no Catholic at all. I served a different Master, even if I did not acknowledge so. But God would not let me go so easily, for He had placed his mark upon me, he kept His voice in my ear, and he kept me from falling into the abyss.
36 Simon Peter said to him, "Master, where are you going?" Jesus answered (him), "Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later."
37 Peter said to him, "Master, why can't I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you."
38 Jesus answered, "Will you lay down your life for me? Amen, amen, I say to you, the cock will not crow before you deny me three times."
How many times I denied Jesus, through my actions, through my words, through my beliefs? I grew up well within the fold, with a mother the likes of St. Monica, and yet I went the way of Judas. In my defense, I was confused by the world; I was lead by my own concupiscence, and I was lost, yet Jesus did not let me go so easily.
So often I have been Peter, really loving Jesus, yet not understanding what he was saying. So through my own ignorance, I rejected Him.
As I came into the faith, I began to understand what he was asking, and then, through my own fear of ridicule, I have rejected him.
But Jesus is merciful; he does not leave us to our own demise, and he did not leave Peter.
3 Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We also will come with you." So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
4 When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
5 Jesus said to them, "Children, have you caught anything to eat?" They answered him, "No."
6 So he said to them, "Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something." So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish.
7. So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord." When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad, and jumped into the sea.
8 The other disciples came in the boat, for they were not far from shore, only about a hundred yards, dragging the net with the fish.
9 When they climbed out on shore, they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread.
10 Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish you just caught."
11 So Simon Peter went over and dragged the net ashore full of one hundred fifty-three 5 large fish. Even though there were so many, the net was not torn.
12 Jesus said to them, "Come, have breakfast." And none of the disciples dared to ask him, "Who are you?" because they realized it was the Lord.
13 Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them, and in like manner the fish.
14 This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to his disciples after being raised from the dead.
15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." He said to him, "Feed my lambs."
16 He then said to him a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." He said to him, "Tend my sheep."
17 He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, "Do you love me?" and he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." (Jesus) said to him, "Feed my sheep.
18 Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go."
19 He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him, "Follow me."
I love this passage. Peter recognizes Jesus, and not only does he cast his net into the deep on command, but he leaps into the water in order to swim to him, while his cohorts simply row the boat back in. Peter is so eager to get to Jesus that he does not wait for the boat...he just goes. This is a man of courage and conviction. This is a man I can relate to in his over-eagerness!
Do you see the connection between the two passages?
Jesus rises from the grave, breaking the bonds of death, and what does he do? He returns to the shore and finds Peter fishing. Peter is so ready to meet Jesus and be reconciled that he literally leaps into the waters to get to his Lord.
And then Jesus asks him three times, "Do you love me?"
He does this to overcome Peter's three denials. Three times, Peter answers in the affirmative that he loves Jesus.
So I go back now, to my own life, how many times I denied the Lord. Peter denied him only three times; I denied him many more than that.
Last night, after the Easter Vigil, some of the people in class thanked me for what I had done and made me aware of the influence I've had upon them; one is now going to the Adoration chapel regularly, another is listening to Bl. Fulton Sheen and Fr. Corapi on Relevant Radio. His wife and sponsor is amazed.
Where I used to deny Christ, I am now standing before a group and proclaiming Him.
Where I used to ridicule the faith, I am now upholding and explaining the teachings.
What I used to flee, I am now following, willingly, and asking others to do the same.
I wondered today how many times Jesus will ask me to affirm my love for him, to overcome the number of times I have denied him. It was far more than three. And I cannot believe his Mercy, allowing me to stand among the Saints and Angels at the Easter Vigil, with the souls seeking admission to the Lamb's Supper, having been given the grace to lead them there in my own way. I was allowed to stand up before the congregation, before the priests, before the Lord, and proclaim with my presence that I do indeed love the Lord Jesus Christ, and desire to lead others to Him.
Only a few years ago, I was not even attending Mass on a regular basis. I could not bring myself to go to Confession, and I was receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus unworthily, bringing judgment upon myself. Only a few years ago, I complained that the Church did not allow women to be ordained, and I was calling for "Vatican III". Only a few years ago, I wanted the Church to change, I wanted Jesus to change, to fit my idea of what worship should be.
Last night, I was allowed to stand up in front of my parish as a teacher and a sponsor, and proclaim that Jesus is Lord and I am His servant - and I am thrilled to lead others into his embrace.
I can't imagine anything more merciful for a sinner such as myself. I deserved to be cast into the abyss, yet the Lord instead has called me to his side, to serve and to teach, bringing the Word to those who are where I was, and who have surpassed where I am even now.
How many times will I have to say, "I love you" to overcome my countless denials of Christ?
Yet I will do so as many times as necessary, for I owe my penance in the order of Justice. And Jesus, in His Mercy, allows all of us the ability to answer for our wrongs against him, for He sees our love and allows us to proclaim it, even when, in the past, we have denied him and run away.
Thank you, Jesus, for your Mercy. I love you, and I will follow you.