Friday of the Seventh Week of Easter
(Acts 25:13b-21; John 21:15-19)
The initial words of Pope Francis after being elected were telling. He referred to himself as “the bishop of Rome” and not as “pope,” the spiritual father of the western Church. Much less did he care to be recognized as the “Vicar of Christ” as if anyone could really take Jesus’ place. No, from the beginning he wished to be identified with Peter as he appears in today’s gospel.
The Lord asks Peter if he loves him three times corresponding to Peter’s three denials of him the night before he died. It is not that Jesus is slow to forgive, but rather he needs to test Peter before naming him caretaker of his flock. Jesus wants to stress that Peter must always act out of love and never from a will to power or for material gain. Pope Francis took note of this fundamental principle in that same election address as he described the Church of Rome as “presid(ing) in charity over all the Churches.”
As we complete the Easter season, we might note that love is also the purpose of the Paschal mystery. Jesus died, rose, ascended to heaven, and had the Holy Spirit sent to us so that we might share divine love. Because of his ordeal, we have been remade into full children of God capable of loving selflessly forever.