Accepting mercy and a new beginning: reflections on the Sunday Gospel by Father Steven LaBaire

I am pleased to present this guest post from Father Steven LaBaire, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Worcester, MA.

In preparation for mass this Sunday:

When Jesus was being held in custody by the Roman authorities, most of his friends deserted him.

Included among those who abandoned Jesus was Peter.  Peter had been a close disciple of Jesus.

Standing by the fire of the high priest’s courtyard, Peter denied knowing Jesus– not once, not twice, but three times.

rahul rekapalli campfire, Flickr Creative Commons
rahul rekapalli campfire, Flickr Creative Commons

The scriptures tell us that it was “night.”

It’s safe to say that it wasn’t just the sky that was dark that night.

Darkness was penetrating minds and hearts and relationships.

In this Sunday’s gospel (John 21:1-19), Jesus and Peter again find themselves standing by a fire.

We are told that “night” is ending. It is dawn…It is a new day.

Kotchka Images Dawn
Kotchka Images Dawn, Flickr Creative Commons

Three times Jesus asks Peter: “Do you love me?”

(as if to un-do Peter’s triple denial).

Moreover, in the first century Middle Eastern culture, to ask a question three times, meant conveying a responsibility or task.

“Feed my lambs,” Jesus commands.

Peter accepts both mercy and new beginning.

Peter, the one who was such a coward is not only forgiven but given the responsibility of caring for the community. (Later this former coward will become a fearless preacher and ultimately be martyred for the faith.)

It is a moment of re-creation and resurrection for Peter.

This story reveals another, ongoing facet of the Paschal Mystery:

Easter happens when

  • the grip of remorse and regret give way to forgiveness and the healing of relationships.
  • we can put aside the hurts of the past and walk together into a new future.
  • we’re given “another chance” to re-write the script of our lives.

For Peter, Easter involved leaving behind the” tomb” of past failures and stepping into the light of a new day.

This Sunday, as we bask in the fire of the Paschal candle, we might prayerfully ask:

To where might “Easter” be calling us? You?

Copyright 2016 Steven Michael LaBaire

Note: I have a song I wrote and recorded based upon this reading called “Simon, Son of John” – here is the video – watch, listen and ponder Father Steven’s words.

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