Friday, May 13, 2016

Confession is an encounter with Jesus whose "mercy motivates us to do better”

Gospel Text: (JN 21:15-19)
After Jesus had revealed himself to his disciples and eaten breakfast with them,
he said to Simon Peter,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
He then said to Simon Peter a second time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Simon Peter answered 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.”

Jesus in today’s gospel asks St. Peter: Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Jesus sees to it that Peter’s answer is in the affirmative. These triple questions are in reference to Peter’s triple denial of Jesus before the passion, as if Christ was giving Peter a chance to make up for his earlier offence.  In other words, Jesus is not discouraged by Peter’s betrayal nor does he reject His decision in choosing him to be the first Pope. However, this does not mean that Jesus ignores his betrayal. In fact, He is very careful to give Peter a chance to nullify his betrayal with three questions of love and making him more humble. In this sense, God uses even our past sins and mistakes for our own good if we sincerely repent them. The Lord calls us, even in our weakness and sin, to love Him above all else. Adrian van Kaam, a Psychologist, in his book The Dynamics of Spiritual Self-Direction, explains how this all works out. He writes:

“God can help us to make the best of the past so that nothing is wasted in our lives. During the years that we were perhaps not yet totally in line with our true self-direction, we have been gathering experience, information and understanding, both of ourselves and of the secular society around us. God used that growing awareness to lead to this point of dissatisfaction and of discernment of new and better possibilities of life. We should show our gratefulness and trust in Him by not lamenting what has been while wasting the possibilities of today and tomorrow. Nobody can change the past as such; everybody can change the impact of the past on the future. Even the negative experiences of the past can help us to prevent similar mistakes in our new life direction,” (pp. 266-267).

Our invitation today is to step through, like Peter, and encounter Jesus’ healing of our total self so as to be an instrument of God’s merciful healing in our world.  Today, may we confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace for timely help. (Hebrews 4:16). Amen.

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