Mass for the Josephite Principals

Decrease font size
Increase font size
Print this page
Home > Archbishop > Homilies > Mass for the Josephite Principals

Mass for the Josephite Principals
17 May 2013, St. James Cygnet.

There was a cartoon published on one occasion in the magazine the "New Yorker", depicting a middle-aged man, dressed in pyjamas and dressing gown, standing inside his front door, looking down at something on the floor. The door is heavily reinforced with steel brackets, and a variety of locks and chains as well. It is a picture of security precautions gone to excess. There is no letterbox to receive the mail, just a peep-hole to look through to the outside. No one could possibly penetrate this place.

Yet, it appears that something has got through the array of defences. The man is staring at an envelope there on the floor, and the envelope has a big red heart printed on the back. A valentine card has been slipped under the door. The man just stares at the floor. "How could this have happened?" "What should he do to ensure it does not happen again?"

Trying to get through to some people, to break down their defences, requires a lot of perseverance, and patience. Some people live in fear of showing their love. We can send out all the signals we like, the hints, the smiles, the winks and the sighs, and just as a last resort, we might find ourselves asking the question: "Excuse me, do you love me?"

There would be few people in fact who, in our polite society today, would come out with the questions as Jesus did: "Who do you say I am?" and "Do you love me?" But Jesus is not going to be inhibited by that kind of atmosphere. Three times Jesus asks Peter: "Do you love me?"

One can imagine just what Peter had been going through  during the period since the day of Jesus' death. Despite all his good intentions, all his firm convictions, he had failed. He had denied Jesus three times; the third time, God forbid, he even swore. How he must have wished to put things right again. And now he had his chance. The three denials are undone through three professions of love.

What had been done in the darkness around the charcoal fire before Jesus was condemned to death,  was now being undone, around another charcoal fire. This is not one of those "I can forgive you, but not forget you" situations. The past is no more for Jesus. It is the future that counts for Jesus and for Peter as well.

Out of the very experience of failure and weakness, come forgiveness, reconciliation and a renewed depth of relationship. Without forgiveness, Peter would have been crippled by his painful past. Others would have spoken of him as being a weakling. The forgiveness of Jesus unlocked the prison of Peter's past and beckoned him on to a great future, such as we have heard in the Acts of the Apostles today. He would never be found wanting again.

Today, the question that Jesus asks of us is also "Do you love me?" We are reminded that he has gone to enormous trouble to assure us first of all of his love for us. The recent celebration of Holy Week was again a powerful reminder of just to what extent Jesus was prepared to go to assure us of his love.

The question comes from one who is more interested in our future prospects than our past failures. He is not interested in recriminations, but more in what can become of us. If, as I believe is the case, we would say “Yes Lord, you know I love you” Jesus would go on to say “Feed my lambs, feel my sheep.” Interestingly the lambs come first, the younger ones, the poorer ones, the weaker ones – they are to gain our attention first, and then we can turn to the sheep.

But then there is the question – with what do we feed them? The answer is simple – we are to feed them with Jesus himself. In his being and in his words, Jesus is food for each one of us who are his disciples. It is the food of his body given in the Eucharist, the food of the Word of God, the food of his love, revealed in the humble love of the shepherds.  That is what we can feed to others.

When Peter had got through the experience of meeting Jesus again, and of addressing the behavior of earlier on, he is called to follow and to imitate the Good Shepherd, to guide the flock, to wash the feet of others, to nourish them, and to give his life for those who have been entrusted to him. Peter is not there for his own privileges and glory, he is there only for Jesus, and nothing else.

When we do take the time and make the effort to assist others, and to do the things that are encouraged of the followers of Jesus, it is important to remember that first and foremost, the people we are trying to assist, belong to Jesus and not to us.  I am sure you know this, given your involvement with the students in your schools, coming as they do from such a wide variety of family experiences. Getting through their defences at times, may not be easy, and the locked doors could be a problem. But as with the valentine’s card, you never know what can happen which is entirely unexpected. The disciples had the same experience when they  put the nets out the second time.