Father Brian Konopa’s Homily 2019-05-04 the 3rd Sunday of Easter

By | September 11, 2019

– A charcoal fire is
mentioned in today’s gospel, an insignificant detail, but curiously, it’s
mentioned two times in the gospel of John. First, when Peter denied three
times that he even knew Jesus and second in today’s gospel
when Peter affirms three times that he loves Jesus. First, the thrice denial. This is the Simon Peter who
swore at The Last Supper to stand by Jesus side,
even to die for him, even if everyone else at
the table abandoned him. But at a charcoal fire
just a few hours later, he couldn’t withstand the
pressure of a servant girl who identified him as
a disciple of Jesus. He swore under oath on
the holy name of God never to have known Jesus. And at that time, that moment,
the prophesied rooster crowed. And Jesus looked for
Peter, and their eyes met from across the courtyard. Jesus didn’t turn away, he looked for Peter,
and loved him. Simon Peter, his brash ego
humiliated, wept bitterly and fled the courtyard
with its charcoal fire. And just weeks later,
after the resurrection, as we heard in today’s gospel,
Jesus directs seven apostles into a miraculous catch of fish. He has also prepared a
charcoal fire for breakfast and invites Peter
and the others. Peter is by a
charcoal fire again. Jesus’ love for Peter will
humble Peter even more. It’s interesting to
note how Jesus addresses Simon Peter as
Simon, not as Peter. Peter means “rock.” Peter is now a
broken man in need of forgiveness and healing. Jesus calls him by his old name, “Simon, son of John, do you
love me more than these?” This must have been
heard for Peter to answer because Jesus is asking
him in the presence of six other apostles, do you love
me more than these other six? And at The Last Supper
in front of the 12, Peter had said, “Lord, even
if they all abandon you, “I will not abandon you.” Simon, son of John, do you
love me more than these? Now, Peter is thinking,
oh, I claimed to, hadn’t I? This question is made more
difficult than it appears because in English, we
have one word for love. The Greek language in which
the gospel of John is written has at least four
words for love, and Jesus uses the word agape. The highest expression of love. To love unconditionally,
wanting what is best for the other person no
matter what it cost me even to the point of dying
for the other person. Simon, son of John, do you
love me unconditionally more than these? Willing to die for me? Peter knows that he claimed to but he realizes now
that his love for Jesus isn’t that strong, so
he uses a different word in his response. A different word for love, the word phileos,
meaning brotherly love,
like Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. And anyone who has a brother
or a sister knows that brotherly love is not
perfect, unconditional love but it is real love. Peter says, “Yes Lord,
you know that I love you “with a brotherly love.” When Jesus asked
the question again but he lowers the bar
a little bit, he says, “Simon, son of John,
do you love me?” He drops the qualifier,
more than these. Peter doesn’t have to claim
a greater love than the rest but Jesus still asks, “Do
you love me unconditionally, “perfectly, with agape love?” And again, Peter humbly says, “Yes Lord, you know that I love
you with a brotherly love.” Jesus asks the question again and he lowers the bar even more. He said, “Simon, son of John, “do you love me with
a brotherly love?” Jesus doesn’t use
the word agape. Jesus does not ask if Peter
loves him unconditionally. The scriptures says, Peter
was distressed that Jesus 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
with a brotherly love.” Now through all of this,
Jesus accepts Peter and the limited love he offers. In fact, Jesus empowers
and commissions Peter by saying, feed my lambs,
tend my sheep, feed my sheep. Jesus will work with Peter, and eventually Peter
will reach a agape love. Jesus prophesies,
when you were younger, you use to 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. He said this signifying
by what kind of death he would glorify God. According to legend,
[Peter] was crucified but before he was crucified,
he told his executioners, “I am not worthy to
die like my master.” And so, they crucified
him upside down. Peter reached the
ultimate level of love, unconditional agape, martyrdom. He gave everything for Jesus. Peter had learned a lot from that first charcoal
fire to the next, and he continued to learn
more throughout his life. I’d like to conclude
with this question, honestly, how would
we need to respond if we look Jesus in the
eye and heard him ask, do you love me with
an unconditional love? Are you willing to
do whatever it takes without counting the cost? However we respond, Jesus
accepts each one of us whether our love is great or
small, perfect or imperfect. Jesus will continue
to work with us, and through us, and
challenge us in the hope that our love will become
perfect and unconditional.

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