Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on May 29, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

John 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.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: This passage is my favorite passage in all of the scriptures. Jesus has risen from the dead, and he appears to his disciples at the shore of Lake Tiberius. This passage describes a very human interaction between Peter and the risen Lord. Peter has denied the Lord three times even though he said at the Last Supper that even if all the other disciples abandoned Jesus, he would never abandon Jesus. Of course, Peter after the Lord’s arrest three times denied the Lord.

In this narrative, Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me more than these other ones do?” Peter affirms that he loves the Lord, but he doesn’t boast that he loves him any more than the other ones do. “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you,” he says, but does not repeat, “more than these,” suggesting that he is chastened by what he did. Then the Lord tells him to minister to his people. Just as Peter three times denied the Lord in the courtyard of the High Priest’s house, Jesus inquires of Peter three times whether Peter loves him. The threefold quest by Jesus for attestation of Peter’s love is not lost on Peter, who is “distressed that he had said to him a third time, ‘Do you love me?’”

We live in relationship to one another, and we too frequently strain the bonds of affection among us. We ever and always need to be ready to forgive, but just as relationship is a process, healing broken bonds in relationships is a process. We see in today’s gospel, Jesus’ readiness to heal injured ties but his simultaneous awareness that both parties must give and take in the restoration of friendship after some form of betrayal.

The passage we read today ends with Jesus’ invitation to Peter and, by extension, Jesus’ invitation to us. As we move through our relationship with Jesus, what is incumbent upon us in this relationship is that we follow him.

Saint of the day: Blessed Joseph Gérard, OMI (March 12, 1831-May 29, 1914) was a French Catholic missionary who chiefly worked among the Basotho people of modern day Lesotho and the Free State province of South Africa. He was born in Bouxières-aux-Chênes, in the Diocese of Nancy and received his religious training from the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, whom he joined at the age of twenty. He wasn’t particularly gifted academically, but was quick at learning languages, which would later help him in learning the Zulu and Sesotho languages he used for his missionary work. Gérard moved to South Africa in 1853, and never returned to his home country again.

Gérard was ordained as a priest at Pietermaritzburg in 1854. He started his work as a missionary among the Zulus in the Vicariate of Natal, but met with little progress there. In 1862 he joined Father François Allard, the Bishop of Natal, in starting the first Catholic mission in Lesotho—there already was a Protestant congregation founded by the Paris Evangelical Missionary Society. With permission from the Basotho chief Moshoeshoe I, they founded the Motse-oa-‘M’a-Jesu (Village of the Mother of Jesus) mission around 32 kilometers (20 miles) south of Thaba Bosiu, at the site of present day Roma. By all accounts, Gérard was well-respected by Moshoeshoe for remaining in the country during the Free State-Basotho Wars, and it has been said that it was at Gérard’s encouragement that the chief sought British intervention at the end of the conflict. However, Gérard’s missionary work still progressed slowly: by the end of 1879, there were only 700 Catholics in the country.

In 1875, Gérard founded the St. Monica mission in the Leribe District in northern Lesotho. From there, he serviced not only the Basotho of Lesotho, but also those who lived in the neighboring Orange Free State. He returned to the Roma congregation in 1898, where he continued his work as a missionary for the rest of his life. He died on May 29, 1914, aged 83. As a result of the work partially initiated by Gérard, Catholic Christianity is the majority religion in present day Lesotho.

Spiritual reading: What then was Jesus’ attitude towards life? There was in him no world-weariness, no strengthless melancholy, no timid shrinking from the face. He looked reality full in the face, and gripped it with both his hands, and with his whole heart accepted it. (Karl Adam)


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