Friday of the Seventh Week of Easter
The martyrs build up the church
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.” 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.” 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. 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.” 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”. Jn 21,15-19
The church is the bride of Jesus Christ, the human reality which he loved to the point of giving his life for her. But when Jesus speaks of the church he does not think of the cathedrals and even of the bishops and the priests who over the millennia will have to lead and serve it: he thinks of the men, the sheep who will be part in it and will find there the faith, the truth, the consolation and the hope in the eternal life. Peter had been chosen since long time to be its leader: he was called, trained and formed to this purpose. The today’s gospel, however, shows to us the university degree examination which he has to take before really becoming the head of the church. It does not extend his leadership nor the faith, or what he has learned in the three years living with the Master. The subject of the examination is the love for Jesus and consequently for the church. You can not love Jesus Christ, if you do not love the church, because you cannot love the leader if you do not love the entire body. To Peter, before entrusting to him the church, Jesus addresses three times the same question: “Do you love me?” until finally he answers: “Lord, you know everything, you know that I love you”. Jesus repeats the same question for three times to exorcise the fact that Peter denied him for three times. It is a necessary repetition because, to give the life, as Peter will be called to do, his love for Jesus and the church must be greater than his sin, which was to deny him thrice. “I am the good shepherd and…. I will lay down my life for the sheep” (Jn 10,14-15), Jesus said to his disciples. It is the end which Jesus prophesies to Peter, at the end of the passage of today: “When you were younger, you used to dressed 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”. Eventually – that is – you will be at the mercy of the men and you will have to offer your life as I offered mine. That’s how you build the church. And even the family.