Memorial of St Pope John Paul II

'Lost and Found' by Greg Olsen. Used with Permission.
“Lost and Found” by Greg Olsen. Used with Permission.

November 20, 2022

October 22, 2020

Listen to audio Hear audio and see video of this homily

John 21:15-17

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.”

In today’s Gospel Jesus continues to prepare Peter for the role of leadership for the church here on earth.

So, he asks Peter, “Peter do you love me more than these?” Peter replied, “Yes Lord you know that I love you.” Jesus then says, “Feed my lambs.” Jesus is telling Peter there will be many more joining the Faith. It is for Peter to make sure they are being taught the lessons of Jesus from the Gospels. These lambs, these are those whose Faith is very young and very immature. So, Jesus tells Peter he will be responsible for getting them the “food” from the Gospels to help them grow in Faith.

Then, he asks Peter a second time, “Peter, do you love me?” Peter replies, “Yes Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus says, “Tend my sheep.” Jesus had already formed a church, with many followers. But none of them had ever been without Jesus at the head, so they didn’t know how to be church. Jesus is telling Peter it is his duty then to help to organize and form them into communities of Faith with leaders to continue to form them.

Then, a third time, Jesus asks Peter, “Peter, do you love me?” Peter says, “Lord, you know everything, you know that I love you.” Jesus ends with, “Feed my sheep.” I know how desolate Peter must have felt there. I’ve felt it myself from time to time – Jesus asking him three times if he loved him. He must have harkened back to the courtyard at Jesus’ trial when he denied Jesus three times.

But Jesus isn’t testing Peter here. He is giving him instructions. Ultimately, Peter is the caretaker of all Jesus built here on earth. In the end Peter is told that those who were already believers must continue to hear the lessons in the Gospel. Why? Because we are never fully formed. It’s why we gather. It’s why the church doesn’t want us to be trying to interpret the scriptures by ourselves. There’s a danger there. We need others to help us not to make scripture into what we want them to be, but rather to be able to learn what Jesus was trying to say to us. There are hard lessons there that many of us would like to avoid.

We must fight falling into Spiritual Desolation by forming ourselves in times of consolation.

St Ignatius says that God gives us consolation through the Holy Spirit. But he also allows the spirit of evil to give us desolation. In times of consolation, we must form good habits – prayer and meditation – spending time with God. That’s when we need to be gathering with people who understand the faith – where we want to go. But it is in times of desolation, and if we have not formed ourselves properly that we will fall easily into the clutches of evil. We begin to doubt ourselves, we begin to doubt people, we begin to doubt God. The Evil one sows doubt into every good thing we are trying to do. We don’t need to give into the desolation if we pray and meditate.

St Pope John Paul II was a great example, in his quarter century as Pope, of today’s Gospel message.

He grew the church. He governed the church with love and compassion. He continued to spread the teachings of Jesus, even meeting the man who attempted to assassinate him.

I think a lot of Catholics are confused right now due to mixed messages from the leaders, and from the news, and when we venture out into social media because that’s where the Evil one sows desolation, divisiveness and everything else. The church says one thing is nonnegotiable but then we have Bishops and priests flaunt their break with those teachings. And this is why the Church wants us to turn to the Church because if we hear those messages, we do begin to doubt. And that’s where evil wins.

We need unity of message as we had under St Pope John Paul II. I know that right now, even I am in a time of desolation. I know many of you are, too. If we continue to pray, as St Ignatius tells us, God will always give us a St Pope John Paul II when times are dire. So, pray and meditate for our church, our country and our community. Pray for growth. Pray for togetherness. Pray for us to be fed from the Gospels.

I would like to leave you with a lyric from one of the bands from my youth. It is such a wonderful message for today.

Circle of hands
Cold spirits plan
Searching my land
For an enemy
Came across
Love’s sweet cost
[gestures to the Cross]
And in the face of beauty
Evil was lost

We will be victorious through prayer and Jesus Christ.

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