“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Today’s gospel is one which gives great hope and encouragement to us all. It focuses upon Simon Peter. Simon, you’ll remember, is the disciple that recognised the Divinity in the humanity of the Lord. When asked by Christ “who do you say I am?” Simon Peter responded by saying “you are the Christ the son of the living God”. To that Christ responded “blessed are you Simon son of John.” Further Christ called him Cephas or rock, and on that rock he would build his church “and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it”.
Peter is no different to you or me. How many of us start off full of bravado – “Lord if it is your commandment to come on the water” only to end up sinking in fear and call out to the Lord to save us. How many of us swear fidelity “even if I have to die with you, I will not deny you!” only to weep bitter tears at our lack of resolve as in Peter’s case who denied the Lord three times. Even after the Lord’s resurrection Peter was disbelieving that Christ had been resurrected. When Peter met the risen Lord on the road to Emmaus he says to him “are you the only stranger in Jerusalem and have you not known the things which happened there in these days”. Yes, Peter was a flawed human being just like you or me.
Yet, it was this flawed human being – impetuous, volatile, uncertain, wavering full of bravado, fearful, insightful in some situations and void of insight in others – in short just like you and me – that Christ who knows all and sees all entrusted his church to. Three times Christ asked do you love me. Three times Peter said yes Lord you know that I love you. Three times Christ directed him to care for his sheep.
Three times denied by Peter prior to the crucifixion and three times affirmed by Peter after the crucifixion blotting out the sin of denial. Look at how Christ gives everybody opportunities 70×7 to join the side of Christ. There is a great lesson in this. To be a Christian is not to be perfect. We can all be flawed yet provided we strive to attain Christ he will welcome each one of us with open arms. Indeed in the apostle Peter we have every hope and confidence that the fullness of the kingdom will not be denied to us. That is not to forget that we are all works in progress and provided that we strive to live our lives as Christians we can do no more than rely upon God’s Grace and mercy to attain our rest in the Lord.