Saturday, April 9, 2016

Third Sunday of Easter Cycle C

Welcome to read homilies for the Sundays of the year. These are sample homilies which you can read with devotion. You may use them in your own homilies without asking my permission. You may also change or edit these to fit them to your audience. A unique quality of these homilies is that they are Christ-filled. From beginning to end they present to us some aspect of Jesus so that beholding his glory we “are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAB).

The Power Is In the Spoken Word

Triple denial, triple affirmation. Peter denied Jesus three times after Jesus was arrested. After Jesus' resurrection Peter affirmed he loved Jesus three times. Most commentators say that the reason why Jesus asked Peter three times in our Gospel reading today whether he loved him was to compensate for the three times he denied him.

But notice carefully what Peter meant when he said that he loved Jesus. In the original Greek of our Gospel reading there is a difference in the word translated here "love" in English.

Jesus asked Peter first using the word agapas, do you love me. When Peter answered he did not use this word. He did not say, agapo, which would be the proper answer. Instead Peter answered filo, in English still "I love you" although now it has a different meaning.

What Jesus meant by using the word agapas was, 'Peter, do you esteem me, do you treasure me as your God, as your all?' Peter answered this with filo, 'Yes, I have a feeling of love for you.'

In the second instance Jesus again used the word agapas. And Peter still answered with filo. In the third instance Jesus no longer used the word agapas, he used the word Peter was using for two times now. He used the word fileis. It is as if Jesus said to Peter, 'You cannot affirm that you agapas me, then do you really fileis, that is, have an affection of love for me? Peter still answered with filo.

We note also that in the first question of Jesus he added a phrase which Peter did not repeat. This phrase was "more than these". So the question of Jesus for the first time was, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" The sense here, as pointed out by the commentary in our New American Bible, is that Jesus asked Peter if he loved him more than the rest of the apostles loved him. In the answer of Peter he did not use this phrase. He was careful now. When before Jesus was arrested Peter professed that he would not abandon him, he said that even if the rest of the apostles abandon him, he would not abandon Jesus. Now he was careful. He did not say that he loved Jesus more than the rest of the apostles loved him.

That is some information which we need to keep in mind when we read our Gospel reading today. It provides some background for our reflection today. Today we reflect upon a statement of Peter which he applied to Jesus.

When Peter was asked by Jesus whether he loved him, Peter always replied with the clause "you know", and the third time he added the word "well". If Jesus knew, as Peter affirmed, that he loved him (Jesus), why did he ask such a question? Why did Jesus not just say, "Peter, son of John, since I know that you love me more than the rest of the apostles love me, I am giving you the charge of feeding my lambs and my sheep"?

The reason Jesus asked Peter this question although he knew what was in the heart of Peter was because Jesus wanted to hear from the lips of Peter that he loved him, athough he also knew that Peter was humble now to acknowledge that he loved Jesus only on the human level, on the level of affection, not on the level of esteem and treasure, not on the level that Jesus loved him, which was on the divine level.

The point is that Jesus wanted to hear from Peter the words "I love you".

Today Jesus wants to hear us say to him, "Jesus, I love you".  And he wants to hear us say that we love him not just on the level of feeling, but on the level of esteem and treasure, that for us Jesus is more important than anything there is.

The seriousness of the spoken word is taught by Jesus in Matthew. He said, "I assure you, on judgment day people will be held accountable for every unguarded word they speak. By your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned" (12:36-37).

There is power in the spoken word. God spoke and the worlds were created. He did not just think of creating the worlds and commanded from his mind that the worlds would be created. He spoke, Let there be. And what he spoke came to be.

Paul tells us that the spoken word which is rhema in Greek, in contrast to logos which is word as an idea,  is near us, in our lips and in our heart, we confess with our lips and believe in our heart that Jesus is Lord and was raised from the dead, then we will be saved (Romans 10:8-9). It is not enough to think about Jesus as our Lord, we have to speak it out according to Paul.

This is like the relationship of a boyfriend and girlfriend. The girl is not satisfied with just being near her boyfriend. She is waiting for her boyfriend to say to her, I love you. The boy is also waiting for an opportune time, sometimes he waits for months, to say to his girlfriend, I love you. In a love relationship the spoken word is important. There is power in that spoken word.

In the same way Jesus is waiting for us to tell him in spoken word, not just in our mind, that we love him.

We begin our love for Jesus on the human level, with affection, with feeling. Jesus will take us up to his level, to loving him as our all in all. Then we can truly say, Jesus is all there is for us.   

When you say to Jesus that you love him, be ready for an assignment. He gave Peter the charge of feeding his lambs and his sheep. The assignment he gives us may be very simple, feeding his lambs around us.

Join me now as we bow our heads to pray, if this is what you really want to say to Jesus. Otherwise if you do not mean it, do not say this prayer. You will only be telling Jesus a lie and he knows it.

Jesus, you are the fairest of tens of thousands. I love you. Amen.

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