To hear the Audio reflections of Sunday, May 1, 2016 click HERE
Saturday 30 April 2016
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 15:1-2, 22-29; Rev21:10-14, 22-23; Jn 14:23-29
A priest was invited to a meal by one of his parishioners during the season of Lent and on a Friday. He sat down at table and was surprised when most of the dishes placed in front of him contained meat. He remarked to the parishioner that they were in the Lenten season and, even more significant, that the day was Friday and meat could not be eaten. The parishioner replied, “Do not worry, father. I sprinkled some holy water on all the meat, baptized it, and called it fish.” Did the meat become fish? Did the priest eat the “meat”? Was he guilty of sin if he did eat? Was the parishioner making a joke of the whole Lenten season? These are questions for which we find responses in the readings of today.
Christianity was never meant to be a religion of rules and regulations. More than once, Jesus encountered people who had made rules and regulations ends in themselves. And, more than once, indeed often, in his responses to such people, he would ask that the focus be on love rather than on law, that it be on the person rather than on the rule, and that it be on the heart rather than on the body. Yet, it seems that, more and more, we continue to focus on the external rather than on the internal.
This is evident in the first reading of today when, a few years after the death and resurrection of Jesus, the first Christian community is debating about what makes a Christian and a disciple of Jesus. However, even as they debated, they realized that this is not what Jesus had intended at all. The Spirit inspired them to change their focus to the internal, to the heart. This is the same spirit that Jesus promised the disciples in the Gospel text of today. This Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus and so, will not teach something different from what Jesus taught. Rather, the Spirit that Jesus sent, and continues to send, will reinforce and confirm all that they have been taught by Jesus. By listening to this Spirit of freedom, they will be empowered to keep the word spoken to them and enable Jesus and the Father to make a home with them. The word spoken to them by Jesus was not a set of rules and regulations. The word spoken to them was not a list of commandments. The word spoken to them was not, primarily, a word about the law. It was always, with Jesus, a word of love. This is why the gift that Jesus leaves with the disciples is the gift of peace, which means wholeness and well being. The focus of the gift is the heart.
Since this is so, the Book of Revelation, in the second reading of today, can speak of the apostles as being the foundations of the new Temp0le and of God and Jesus being the Temple. There are no bricks and no walls that make up the new Temple. It is a Temple which has as its cornerstone, Jesus himself. This new Temple will not need external light. It will not even need the sun and the moon. Jesus will be all the light that the Temple needs.
Why is it that, almost from the “foundation” of Christianity, and continuing even today, the Church has focused on externals and on what constitutes and does not constitute sin? There could be a variety of reasons for this. The core reason, however, seems to be that, like Jesus was misunderstood so often in his lifetime, he was misunderstood also after his death and resurrection Instead of being content with living out the message of love, the Church became more interested in converting others to Jesus. Instead of showing, in and through the reality of love, what it meant to be a disciple of Jesus, the Church focused, on merely proclaiming the word. Instead of concentrating on Jesus and his Spirit, the Church shifted the focus to everything else. We moved our gaze away from the crucified Jesus and risen Christ.
What must we do to bring back this focus? What must we do? Only one response is required: the response of love. As Jesus lived out throughout his life, and in the face of all opposition, the reality of unconditional and absolute love, so we, as Church, are called to do so today. We need not concern ourselves so much with numbers and statistics, but with living out the message that Jesus brought. We need not concern ourselves with external conversions, but must focus more on the conversion of the heart. We need not worry so much about eating or not eating meat and fish and thus, what goes in, but must concentrate instead on what comes out from within. Then, that Temple, which John speaks about in the second reading of today, will become a reality. Then, its light will be the glory of God and the Lamb. Then, the Spirit that Jesus sent, and continues to send even today, will not be stifled and will be free to transform our lives and the lives of those we encounter and so, win them over to love.
Friday 29 April 2016
Saturday, April 30, 2016 - How often has your comparison with what others have led you to feel jealous of them? Will you realize that you can be the most contented person if you so decide today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 16:1-10; Jn 15:18-21
These verses of the Discourse on the Vine and the Branches focus not on the relationship of Jesus and the disciples, like the earlier verses did, but on the relationship of the disciples with the “world”. Here, the word “world” is used to represent, not the physical world, but those who are opposed to God’s revelation in Jesus.
The challenge of love will be truly encountered when the community faces the “world”. The “world” will hate the disciples because of their relationship with Jesus and because they live out his teachings. If the disciples want the world to love them, they must give up the teachings of Jesus. However, because they have been chosen by Jesus and set apart from the “world”, they too, like Jesus, will have to endure the “world’s” hatred.
The disciples must realize that following and obeying Jesus, as servants obey their masters, will lead to persecution. What has happened with Jesus will be repeated in the disciples’ lives. While the authority of the one sent is the same as the sender, it is also true that the response to the one sent will be the same as the response to the sender. Those who do not accept the word of truth, spoken by God in Jesus, will indulge in persecution. Those who accept the word will respond by living out that word in their lives. Rejection of the disciples means rejection of Jesus because it is Jesus who sends them. Rejection of Jesus means rejection of God who sent him.
In a world in which the resonating message is to “have more”, it is not always easy to speak and live Jesus’ message to “be more”. Those who do this are labeled as crazy and out of touch with reality. Possession of things has so possessed us that we do not even realize that, most of the time, it is things that possess us rather than the other way round. We are held by the things we want to possess and they will not let us rest. Often, it begins with a small possession and then goes on to something bigger and soon gets so big that we lose control of ourselves and who we are. Our identity is linked with what we have and what we have achieved. In a situation like this, we need to take stock and decide when enough is enough. We need to ask ourselves whether we will live our lives moving from one possession to the next, often not even having the time or energy to enjoy what we possess.
Thursday 28 April 2016
Friday, April 29, 2016 - Have you received Jesus’ gift of unconditional love? Does this show in your sharing of that love?
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts15:22-31; Jn 15:12-17
The first verse of today’s reading repeats the love commandment of , which there, was referred to as a new commandment. This love is expressed in the most perfect of ways in the willingness to go to one’s death for the sake of a friend. The disciples are indeed friends of Jesus, as has been manifested in their keeping his command to love. It is important to note that Jesus is not placing a condition for friendship here (you can be my friends only if…); rather he is stating what and who the disciples are (because you are my friends, you do what I command).
The friendship that the disciples share with Jesus is grounded in love. This means that Jesus keeps back nothing from his disciples and reveals to them all that they need to know. His primary revelation to them has been of God as a loving and compassionate Father.
It is Jesus who has taken the initiative in calling and choosing the disciples and this fact reinforces the idea of grace. It is not one’s effort that can earn discipleship but the grace of God which, when received, results in one living out the call to discipleship. The living out of the call is not merely a once for all act, but something that is done constantly and with perseverance. This will ensure that the effects of their love are abiding and lasting. The last verse of today, with its reminder to “love one another”, forms an inclusion with the first.
The relationship that we share with God because of Jesus is one of sons and daughters. We are Jesus’ brothers and sisters, even friends. This is because he has given us everything in all its fullness. He held nothing back, not even his own self. The manifestation of this self giving, which began with the incarnation, was completed and continued on the cross, and through his resurrection and ascension. He continues to give, even today. However, the giving is only one side of the story. Without a receiver, the gift has no value. This is why, while the grace of God given as a gift in Jesus is first, our reception of that gift is as important if the act of giving is to be completed. We show that we have received this gift when we, like Jesus, also dare to reach out in love. When we speak an enhancing word, perform a loving action, behave a little less selfishly, and a little more selflessly, then the gift is given and received, again and again.
Wednesday 27 April 2016
Thursday, April 28, 2016 - How often has fear ruled your actions? Will you dare to act from love today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts15:7-21; Jn 15:9-11
The love which the Father has for Jesus is the same love that Jesus has expressed and shown for his disciples. It is a love that is unconditional, a love without end. It is not merely a verbal expression, or an emotion, but a love that is shown tangibly and in every action that Jesus performs. The disciples have to act in the same manner as Jesus in order to make this love visible. There is only one commandment and that is the commandment to love. If the disciples keep this commandment, it will result in their being like Jesus, their master, who before them, revealed God’s love for the world.
Keeping the commandment of Jesus is thus not a chore or burden but done willingly because one has experienced this love first. The outcome of this sharing and manifestation of love is unbounded joy.
The word “love” has been a word that is used so often that it has been abused. We speak of our love for the good things of life, and of our love for the members of our family, and of our love for God in the same breath. “I love mixed vegetables” we might tell our spouse and, in the next breath, say “I love you”. Love is not primarily an emotion; it is not even a feeling, but reality. As a matter of fact, the only reality is love. Fear, which is regarded as the opposite of love, is not real, it is only an illusion. If there is fear, there cannot be love, and where there is love, there is no fear (1 Jn ). While Paul gives a beautiful definition of love in 1 Cor 13:1-9, my own definition of love is simple, but not simplistic. “In love, there is no “I””.
Tuesday 26 April 2016
Wednesday, April 27, 2016 - Do I consider myself as part of the vine or do I regard myself as an individual branch? How will I show that I am part of the vine?
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts15:1-6; Jn 15:1-8
John 15:1-17 are the verses for today and the next two days. These verses contain the final “I am” sayings in the Gospel (vv. 1, 5) and introduce the central metaphor of this unit: the vine and its branches. Jesus uses, in the first verse of Chapter 15, a common symbol of the world at that time: Vine. While in 15:1, the relationship with Jesus and the Father is stressed, in 15:5, when the metaphor is used again, Jesus does so in the context of his relationship with his disciples. Thus, the focus of the metaphor is interrelationship. If God is the vine dresser, Jesus is the vine and the disciples are the branches. All three are required for the production of fruit.
God, as the vine dresser, is the origin or source and, because Jesus comes from the Father, he is the true vine. God acts in his capacity as vine dresser and does what is best for the vine. Those branches that do bear fruit are pruned and those that do not, are cut away. This means that those of the community who express their union with Jesus by acting it out in works of love are pruned, whereas those who do not show their faith in action are cut off. The disciples have been given an insight into how they must remain in the vine, through the words that Jesus has spoken to them and through the loving actions that he performed, symbolized in the washing of the feet. They must learn from these actions and realize that, without abiding or remaining in Jesus, they can do nothing. Their own power or effort will never be sufficient for the works they have to perform. These can only be done if accompanied by the grace that Jesus gives.
“I am the vine, you are the branches” in 15:5 is not a repetition of what was said earlier. Rather it stresses the relationship of the community with Jesus. Without the vine, the branches are nothing. Mutual indwelling will result in bearing fruit. If a branch decides that it wants to live apart from the vine, it is in effect asking for death. Life apart from the vine is not possible for any branch.
Mutual indwelling is not merely with a single branch and the vine but with all the branches in the vine with one another. This unity of the branches among themselves will result in fruit bearing. This unity will also be a witness for the world and the glorification of the vine dresser: God. When people see the works of the disciples, it will lead them to glorify the Father.
All too often Christianity has been understood as a religion that has only the individual dimension. The communitarian dimension has been neglected. This is seen in so many of the Sacraments (which are both individual and communitarian) being treated and regarded as private devotions. The approach of many Christians has often been: My God and I. This approach is to misunderstand Christianity and all that Jesus stood for. The metaphor of today makes explicit that mutual indwelling is at the heart of the preaching of Jesus, and that Christianity, while it surely has an individual dimension, just as surely has a communitarian dimension. I am, as a Christian my brother’s and sister’s keeper. Their joys and sorrow, their trials and tribulations, their successes and failures, have to be as real to me as my own if I am to be a Christian in the true sense of the word. The Christian does make an individual commitment and choice to follow Jesus but he/she makes it in and through a community.
Monday 25 April 2016
To hear the Audio Reflections of the Reflections for April 26, 2016 click HERE
Tuesday, April 26, 2016 - When adversity knocks at your door do you open with dread and fear or hope and courage?
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts14:19-28; Jn 14:27-31
A new promise is given to the disciples. This is first occurrence of “peace” in the Gospel of John. Peace here does not mean simply a wish, but must be seen as a legacy or bequest that Jesus leaves behind for the disciples. This peace that Jesus gives is not merely a sense of security, not merely the end of conflict and strife, but it embraces every aspect of a person’s life. This peace makes the weak strong and the fainthearted brave. It is a wholeness which makes one courageous to face all the trials and tribulations of life without getting overwhelmed. It is a peace which gives them the strength to face every kind of adversity with equanimity and faith.
Even as he offers this gift to them, Jesus reminds them of his departure because this is what God wills and it must come to pass. It is a reality that cannot be avoided and the peace given to them must make them able to accept it. The disciples must accept this reality, not out of resignation but, with an active joy. The reason for this joy is that Jesus goes to the Father after having completed the work given to him. It is the Father who has sent Jesus and given him the work to do - the work of making the Father known to the world - and now, after completing it thoroughly, Jesus goes back to where he has come from.
The foretelling of the events is Jesus’ way of preparing the disciples for what is to come and also to reveal to them that Jesus continues to go to his departure willingly and knowingly. It is not as if some unseen hand or “fate” is responsible for what is to come. Since what will happen fits in with God’s plan for Jesus and the world, Satan is never in control. He cannot have any power over Jesus. Jesus does what he does willingly and in obedience to the will of the Father..
The event of the death of a loved one sometimes shatters our world. We find it difficult to cope with the loss and wonder if the God we believe in really is a God of unconditional love. Does our God really care what happens to us? If he does, then why did he let this misfortune befall us? Where is he when we need him most? Why does he not answer? The answers to these questions are provided by Jesus in the Gospel text of today. He tells his disciples, and us, to rejoice at such happenings because they fit in with God’s plan for us and the world. We may not be able to see this plan at first glance, like the disciples were not able to see it when Jesus spoke it to them, but we also know that Jesus’ words are true because of his resurrection and ascension and because of the transformation in the lives of his disciples because of these events. We have to continue to dare to believe.
Sunday 24 April 2016
Monday, April 25, 2016 - St. Mark, Evangelist - Mark wrote a Gospel to communicate his experience of Jesus. How will you communicate your experience of Jesus to others today?
To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Peter 5:5-14; Mk 16:15-20
The second Gospel was written by St. Mark, who, in the New Testament, is sometimes identified with John Mark. Both he and his mother, Mary, were highly esteemed in the early Church, and his mother's house in Jerusalem served as a meeting place for Christians there.
St. Mark was associated with St. Paul and St. Barnabas (who was Mark's cousin) on their missionary journey through the island of Cyprus. Later he accompanied St. Barnabas alone. We know also that he was in Rome with St. Peter and St. Paul. Tradition ascribes to him the founding of the Church in Alexandria.
St. Mark wrote the second Gospel, probably in Rome sometime before the year 65 C.E.; and possibly for Gentile converts to Christianity. Tradition has it that Mark was the interpreter of Peter. This seems to be confirmed by the position which St. Peter has in the Gospel of Mark.
The Gospel reading for the feast is from Mk16:15-20. Most scholars today regard Mk 16:9-20 as an addition to the original ending of Mark at 16:8. A number of reasons are put forward for this view. The first is that Mary Magdalene is introduced in 16:9 as if she is being mentioned for the first time. However, Mark has mentioned her before (15:47; 16:1). Second, there is no mention of a Galilean apparition in these verses, though one is explicitly promised in 16:7. Third, these verses are a combination, in summary form, of the post resurrection appearances of Jesus in the other Synoptic Gospels, in John, and in the Acts of the Apostles.
The text of today begins with the command of the Risen Lord to the disciples to proclaim the Good News to all nations. The disciples are challenged to go beyond their fear and with confidence trusting in the power of the Lord. The Lord will accompany them everywhere and their witness will draw all peoples to the Lord.
The enemy of faith is fear. However imperfect our faith, and however many times we remain silent when we should testify to the gospel, we can always return to the Lord. None of us can get so far away from Jesus that we cannot be touched by God’s healing presence. Jesus continues to use each of us even in our weakness to be his messengers of the good news that, in him, God loves everyone.
Let the feast of St. Mark be for each one of us an opportunity to live out our faith and inspire others and draw them to the Lord.
Saturday 23 April 2016
To read the texts click on the texts:Acts 14:21b-27; Rev21:1-5a; Jn 13:31-33a; 34-35
The 35th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus was held at the beginning of the year 2008. In Decree 2 titled “The Fire that Kindles Other Fires,” a line reads thus: “Our lives must provoke the questions, “Who are you that you do these things…. and that you do them in this way”? Through this the members of the Society of Jesus are exhorted to “manifest especially in the ceaseless world of noise and stimulation – a strong sense of the sacred inseparably joined to involvement in the world.” These words can well be used as a summary of the challenge of the Gospel text of today.
The background to the verses of the Gospel text is the episode in which Jesus washes the feet of his disciples. It is a gesture that is not merely symbolic, or a lesson in humility, but a prophetic gesture. Jesus is showing through this prophetic act not what his disciples are expected to do but what they are expected to be. Jesus wanted their actions to stem from their being. Today’s verses begin after Judas has gone out. He has decided not to be what Jesus expects him to be. He has decided to opt out. It is in this context and even in the midst of impending betrayal and deceitfulness that Jesus gives a new command. To be sure the command per se is not new. It forms part of the Torah in the Old Testament. What is new about it is that the commandment to love has its roots in the incarnation. God’s love for the world was so great that God could only send the Son as a perfect manifestation of that love. The second reading from the book of Revelation confirms this when it affirms that because of the incarnation, the dwelling of God is on earth and among mortals. God dwells with humans and manifests his love to them in wiping away their tears, and taking away their crying, mourning and pain. The disciples are asked to enter into that same love. They will show that they have entered into this love by keeping this command of love. It is a sure and tangible sign of the disciples abiding in Jesus. This love will also be a sign to the world of who the disciples are and why they do what they do.
The first Christian community continued to give this sign because of which many who experienced it were drawn to their way of life. The first reading of today narrates how Paul and his companions were able to transform the lives of many not merely because of their preaching the Word, but because they lived out the Word they preached. They were unafraid to continue to love even in the midst of persecution and rejection. What mattered to them was that love be proclaimed. What mattered to them was that the love that God had made incarnate in Christ be made known to all. What mattered was that no matter how arduous the road ahead or how terrifying the terrain, they would continue to persevere and love. They were thus instrumental in giving a glimpse to those who encountered them of the new heaven and new earth that the second reading of today speaks of. The first heaven and earth which was a heaven and earth that had not had the privilege of witnessing and experiencing the incarnation was no more. It had passed away because of the coming of Christ and his gift on unconditional love. The new heaven and new earth that the first Christian community experienced in Christ and wanted to share with others. It was a situation in which there would be no sea and therefore no negatives because all that was negative would fade with the coming of the positive of unrestricted and unreserved love.
Today more than two thousand years after the inauguration of that new heaven and new earth, the challenge remains. The Christian community of today has to waken to this challenge and call to give a glimpse of what was through the coming of Christ and so what can be. It will do this when individual members of the new community take on the responsibility of becoming Christ to those who do not know him or have not yet encountered him. It will do this when the community as a whole is united in that love which Christ brought with his coming. It will do this when those who encounter Christians today ask, “Who are you that you do these things… and that you do them in this way?”
Friday 22 April 2016
Saturday, April 23, 2016 - Jesus revealed the Father as unconditional love. How will you reveal Jesus today?
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts13:44-52; Jn 14:7-14
These verses continue the teachings begun in 14:1. The one who knows Jesus also knows the Father for Jesus reveals the Father as Father. In Jesus, one sees the Father as never before because no one has revealed him like Jesus does. Like Thomas before him, now Philip does not understand what Jesus is saying and in his ignorance, asks a question. He does not realize that in seeing Jesus he has seen the Father because of the revelation that Jesus makes of the Father. In offering himself, Jesus has offered all the revelation that the disciples need to identify the Father.
Jesus can only do what the Father has told him and so his works are those of the Father. Philip and the other disciples must be able to see Jesus as the revelation of the Father, if not in his person, at least through the works that Jesus does. The works flow from his person and are not separate from him but an integral part of who Jesus is. The works, too, are works of revelation. They show that the primary aim of God is not to condemn but to save and so are works that enhance and build up.
Since it is Jesus who sends the disciples, the works that anyone who believes in Jesus will do will be the same as those of Jesus. In fact, these will be able to do even greater works than Jesus. These works will make known the whole story of Jesus as Word made flesh and so, will be greater than those which Jesus does. Since these will be done after the whole Christ event – death, resurrection, and ascension to the Father – they will continue the glorification of Jesus. They will continue to reveal Jesus to the world, sitting at the right hand of God. Jesus will answer every prayer of the disciples made in his name and he will grant their petitions.
As Jesus made God known to the world through unconditional, magnanimous love, so the disciples are called to do the same. The works that Jesus did have to be continued today if Jesus is to be made present and is to be revealed to a world that does not yet know him. It is the present community of disciples that has the responsibility to continue the mission that Jesus began. Whenever an enhancing word is spoken, whenever an action that heals is done, whenever love is shown in a tangible manner, then the work of Jesus continues and Jesus continues to be made present.
To be sure, the revelation of God that Jesus made can also be recognized in the depths of one’s heart, but this is not the whole story. It is a love that must be shared and revealed to the world if it is to be complete and whole. The incarnation was not a private revelation given to a select few, but an earth shattering event made visible to the whole world. So the revelation of Jesus, today, has to be done visibly and tangibly.
Thursday 21 April 2016
Friday, April 22,2016 - Have you, by your narrow mindedness, prevented others from encountering Jesus? Will you realize that he is bigger than anything that you can ever imagine?
To read the texts click on the texts:Acts13:26-33; Jn 14:1-6
Today’s Gospel reading contains the first of the teachings of Jesus that speak about his departure and what it means for his disciples. At the beginning of these teachings, Jesus commands his disciples to stand firm. They are not to let the event of his departure overwhelm them. They are not to give in to despair, give up, or lose hope. They must continue to trust and believe. Even though it might seem, on the surface level, that evil is winning, the disciples must realize that God is always in charge and in control of all situations. They must place their trust in God and in Jesus. Since Jesus shares an intimate relationship with the Father, and since the disciples can do so too, there will be as many rooms as there are believers. God and Jesus will exclude no one who wants to share this relationship with them. Jesus goes, but only to return and so, his going is not permanent. It is a temporary act that must be done and completed. This going and returning will be evidence of his power over everything, including death. Nothing and no one will ever be able to separate the disciples from the love that Jesus has for them. The purpose of Jesus’ returning is to take the disciples to the place where he is: the bosom of the Father. Even as Jesus points to himself as the one who reveals the Father, Thomas misunderstands and asks a question. He interprets the words “where I am going” only as a physical destination and so, protests that, since he does not know the final destination of Jesus, it is not possible to know how to get there. Jesus corrects this misunderstanding with an “I am” saying. “The Way” is not a geographical term or physical road, it is Jesus himself. Thus, to know Jesus is to know the way and, to know the way is to know Jesus. In his being “the Way” Jesus is also “Truth” and “Life”. Jesus is the “Truth’ because he has been sent by God to make God’s word known. He became “flesh” and anyone who recognizes this and listens to his voice, is of the truth. Recognition of the truth in Jesus leads to “life” in abundance. Since the fullness of God’s life was revealed in Jesus, one can only partake of this life through Jesus.
It is important not to be too fundamental in interpreting the last verse of today’s reading. All too often, insistence on the exclusiveness of the Christian way has been responsible for problems in various parts of the world. The Gospels all agree that the approach of Jesus was all inclusive and excluded no one who would want to come to the truth. There is no doubt that Jesus revealed the Father in the most unique of ways, as no one before had ever done. This is because, in the incarnation, God took on “flesh” in all its weaknesses and limitations. Jesus did not simply put on human nature but became like us in every single way and thus, can understand every aspect of our lives. However, by the fact of the incarnation, Jesus also gave us an insight into who God is and who we are called to be. He made us aware of our own limitlessness. Though he limited himself, we must realize that Jesus is much bigger than the narrow image of him we often have. This narrow image is responsible for our restricting him and making him as small as we are.
John was writing about his community’s experience of seeing God in Jesus incarnate and was not concerned with showing the superiority of this revelation over any other or with the fate of believers of other religions. We must keep this in mind when interpreting the last verse of today’s text. We must, however, rejoice because we are privileged to receive such a unique revelation of God in Jesus Christ.
When one brackets out the questions that contemporary Christians falsely import into these verses, there is nothing outrageous or offensive about the claims made here. Rather, at the heart of Christianity is this affirmation of the decisive revelation of God in the incarnation. John 14:6 can thus be read as the core claim of Christian identity; what distinguishes Christians from peoples of other faiths is the conviction given expression in John 14:6. It is, indeed, through Jesus that Christians have access to their God.
Wednesday 20 April 2016
To read the texts click on the texts:Acts13:13-25; Jn 13:16-20
These verses contain the second part of the discourse spoken by Jesus after he washes the feet of his disciples. In the first part (-15), Jesus teaches his disciples about the meaning of his washing their feet, and the implications that this action has for their lives as his disciples.
In the second part of this discourse (-20), Jesus teaches about discipleship in general and the relationship that the disciples share with him. The double Amen at , and at , forms an inclusion and so brackets and highlights what Jesus says in between. The disciples must remember that their role, in their relationship with Jesus, is that of servants to their master. If they understand this and act on it, then they will be blessed. They must, at every stage, know where their authority ends. The sayings which are highlighted by the inclusion are in -19 and contain a prediction of betrayal. Jesus is aware of who the betrayer is and also knows that it is not an outsider, but one who has eaten at table with him. Ps 41:9 is quoted here to accentuate the intimacy of the betrayal. The betrayer is someone whose feet he has washed, one with whom he has broken bread and one whom Jesus has loved to the very end. This foreknowledge of the betrayer also means that Jesus is in control of the events that lead to his death and is not taken by surprise. Another reason for informing his disciples about his betrayal, in advance, is so that they may realize who Jesus is: Son of God. Even as he is betrayed, he will reveal himself as God for us.
Since Jesus has been sent by God, he has God’s stamp and authority. The disciples, who are in turn sent by Jesus, have the authority and stamp of Jesus. Thus, if anyone accepts the disciples, they are in effect accepting Jesus. Just as Jesus shares fully in God’s work, so the disciples share fully in Jesus’ work of giving life to all and giving it in abundance.
Jesus’ act toward us, in love, manifested symbolically in the washing of the feet and sharing of bread, presents every one who sits at his table with a choice: One can embrace Jesus’ gift to us and embody one’s embrace of that gift through one’s own acts of love or, one can turn one’s back on Jesus’ gift of love. This means that merely sitting at Jesus’ table, and even eating the bread that he gives, is not the full story. It has to be continued in the giving of self to others and is only completed when this is done. We then enter into community with Jesus and with one another.
Tuesday 19 April 2016
Wednesday, April 20, 2016 - Have you decided “for” or “against” Jesus? How will you show the choice that you have made?
To read the texts click on the texts:Acts12:24-13:5; Jn 12:44-50
Today’s Gospel reading contains the last public discourse of Jesus in the Gospel of John. It serves as the epilogue to, and summarizes the main themes of Jesus’ public ministry. The words are a proclamation, as indicated by the words “cried out” in , which begin the discourse. Jesus has been sent as the revelation of God and, though no one has ever seen God, the one who sees Jesus, sees God. Jesus makes God known in a way never known before. He is the unique revelation of the Father as Father since he is Son. His reason for coming into the world was not to hide but to reveal and hence, he came as light. All are invited to come to this light so as not to stay in darkness any longer. Since the invitation that Jesus gives is free, one is not compelled to accept it. Every individual is free to make his/her choice. There is no coercion or force or any kind of pressure to accept. One will not be judged, even if one rejects the invitation, since the prime purpose of Jesus’ coming into the world is not to judge, but to save. Though this is true, the ones who do not accept the true word spoken in Jesus will have to accept responsibility for the choice that he/she makes. Jesus keeps revealing all that the Father has asked him to reveal.
These verses are a call to decision and commitment. One has to decide for or against, one has to make a choice. If one does not make a choice “for”, one is, in effect, making a choice “against” because with Jesus, there is no middle way.
Monday 18 April 2016
Tuesday, April 19,2016 - Do you believe that God always wants what is best for you? How will you respond if things do not go the way you wish them to go today?
To read the texts click on the texts:Acts11:19-26; Jn 10:22-30
The verses that begin today’s reading inform us that Jesus is in
The Jewish religious authorities begin the dialogue by asking Jesus whether he is the Messiah. They are annoyed that Jesus is not being explicit. This is the only place in the Gospel of John where Jesus is asked explicitly whether he is the Messiah. Jesus responds that he has been explicit and that he has told them, in no uncertain terms, the truth about himself and yet, they do not believe. Jesus then points to his ‘works” as indicators of this claim. “Works” here does not refer to miracles alone, but to the broader scope of Jesus’ ministry and includes the revelation of himself as having been sent by God.
Belief in Jesus determines whether one belongs to the fold of Jesus. Since the Jewish leaders do not believe, they cannot and do not belong to the fold. Those who belong to the fold hear the voice of the Shepherd and follow trustingly. Following Jesus leads to eternal life which he alone can give. The reason why Jesus can do this is because he has received this gift directly from the Father. What is more is that Jesus and the Father are one. This means that Jesus and God are united in their work of salvation and Jesus shares completely in God’s work.
We are privileged, as Christians, to have as our God one who is Good Shepherd, one whose primary interest and concern is to care for the good of the sheep. Our God is a God who wants to lead us to safety and to places where there is abundance. He wants what is best for us at all times and will do anything to protect us from any kind of harm. Though this is the case, we do not always listen to his voice and we prefer to go our own way. The only result that we can expect, after such a choice, is destruction and death.
Sunday 17 April 2016
Monday, April 18, 2016 - What is the shepherd calling you to do today? Will you listen to his voice?
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts11:1-18; Jn 10:1-10
These verses contain part of the Discourse on Jesus, the Good Shepherd. This Discourse appears in the Gospel of John after Jesus has healed a blind man on the Sabbath, because of which, the Jews are upset (9:1-41). It is the last full discourse of the public ministry of Jesus. The Farewell Discourse from 14:1-16:33 is exclusively given to the disciples and not to the public.
The focus in the first part of the Discourse (10:1-5) is on the shepherd and his relation to the flock. A contrast is made between the authorized shepherd and the bandit. The authorized shepherd enters by the gate, but the bandit climbs in another way. The reason for this is because the gate keeper opens the gate for the authorized shepherd but not for the bandit. Since he is the authorized shepherd, the sheep hear and recognize his voice. When he calls, they answer. There is an intimate bond between the shepherd and his sheep. They recognize and know each other. The shepherd walks ahead of the sheep and leads them out. The sheep are confident in his leadership and thus, follow him trustingly. They will not follow a stranger but will rather run away from him. The comment of the evangelist serves two purposes. The first is that the reader must understand that Jesus is using a “figure of speech” and thus, not take the metaphor literally. The reader must realize that many meanings are possible and therefore, must go below the surface, to the deeper meaning. The second point is that the listeners did not understand this figure of speech. If seen in the context of the miracle, and the healing of the blind man on the Sabbath, and the Pharisees objection because the healing took place on the Sabbath, then it seems clear that the authorized shepherd is Jesus and the bandits are the objectors. Jesus has the good of the sheep at heart and the bandits do not.
In the second part (10:7-16), while pastoral imagery is still used, the Discourse moves in a new direction. Jesus is also the “Gate” for the sheep. The gate has two functions: one is to give access to those who are legitimate and have a right to enter, and the other is to prevent those whose intention is to cause destruction. Rightful entry into the fold is only through Jesus, who is the gate.
The text of today concludes with one of the most beautiful and comprehensive statements of the mission of Jesus. Jesus is the Good Shepherd and Gate. He has come to give life and give it to the full. All who listen to his voice will receive this life in abundance.
As the gate, Jesus is the way to life, but he is not merely that. He also leads the way and so, is the Good Shepherd. Jesus is the way to life because he is himself life and he leads the way to life because he lays down his own life. These are non-transferable attributes; they derive from the heart of Jesus’ identity as one sent by God.
Saturday 16 April 2016
Sunday, April 17, 2016 - Fourth Sunday of Easter - Will you be an instrument of God’s unconditional love?
To read the texts click on the texts:Acts 13:14,43-52; Rev 7:9,14b-17; Jn 10:27-30
All three readings of today centre on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. If, in the first reading, Paul includes Gentiles as those who are also called to be disciples, in the Gospel text, Jesus speaks of disciples as those who listen to the voice of the shepherd. The second reading speaks of showing in action rather than in words that one is a disciple.
The final verse of the Gospel text of today, “The Father and I are one,” summarizes beautifully what discipleship means. It explicates and explains the relationship of Jesus and God as well as the relationship of disciples with Jesus. The oneness, which Jesus shares with God, is acted out in the whole Gospel. He speaks God’s words, he does God’s deeds and he makes God known, as no other has ever done before. Jesus is thus the manifestation of God’s unconditional love for the world. God sent Jesus and gave him to the world to show, on the one hand, that God would hold nothing back from the world and to show on the other that it was possible for every human being who encountered Jesus in any way to share in such a relationship with God because of Jesus. In Jesus, the world was able to witness who God is and what God is like. Disciples of Jesus who walk the same path can also reveal Jesus and so God.
This revelation of Jesus is what Paul invites the people in the Synagogue to. However, here, like in the case of Jesus’ voice, there is no coercion, pressure or force from without. The response has to be free. Like the sheep of Jesus hear his voice and follow him the people in the synagogue must decide if they are willing to follow. Since those to whom the voice was first addressed reject the Shepherd, others are invited to follow. Thus it is not primarily external identification marks that will determine a disciple of Jesus, rather one who shows in action that he/she wants to follow.
This action is narrated in the second reading of today, which speaks of those who dared to follow unconditionally and had to pay the price of such following. These are people from every nation, tribe and language, which is a clear indication that discipleship is not exclusive nor determined by one’s background, but by having the courage to follow even in the midst of all odds. These are the ones who have undergone all kinds of persecution and maltreatment and have persevered. They have shown not in words, but in action, what it means to follow and be a disciple of Jesus. They have behaved as obedient sheep of the Good shepherd.
Thus, discipleship as brought out in the readings of today is not merely a matter of saying, “Lord, Lord.” It concerns living out such a confession. To live out such a confession means to live as Jesus did and to manifest God as he did. The unique way in which Jesus revealed God is as unconditional forgiveness and love. This is why God is not a God who needs merely external worship and praise but a God who looks at the internal at the heart. This is because it is God who loves first. God does not need one to do anything to gain the love, because it is a love that is given gratis. One cannot acquire such a love or ever be worthy of it. One cannot earn such a love or merit it. However, one can show that this love given freely has been received and accepted only if one shares that love with everyone.
The sharing of such love was what the incarnation, mission, life, death and resurrection of Jesus was all about. God realised that the best way to show this love was through becoming an integral part of creation. In Jesus, this love reached the highest point and was manifested as pure, unadulterated love. It was a love that was shown when things were going well, but it was also a love that was revealed on and from the Cross. The multitude from every nation, tribe and language that followed the lamb realised this and that is why they, too, were able to go through the great ordeal and withstand all kinds of persecution. Thus, like Jesus, they too revealed God and thus, like Jesus, they too were able to see the face of God and stand before God.
The world today is hungering for such a love. There is too much hate, indifference, apathy and coldness. There is too much selfishness and self-centredness. Those of us who profess to be disciples of Jesus are challenged through the readings of today to bring about the change that is needed. We have to dare like Jesus and the first Christian community to first open our hearts to receive the unconditional forgiveness and love that God keeps pouring and to share that love with all. In this we, too, make no distinction between nation, race, tribe and language. In this we do not discriminate between them and us, for all are invited to partake of this gracious love of God made manifest and revealed in Jesus.
Friday 15 April 2016
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts9:31-42; Jn 6:60-69
The text of today begins with the disciples grumbling after hearing what Jesus has said. The sayings are too difficult for them to accept. Jesus responds to their grumbling by issuing a challenge to them. If this affects them, they will be even more affected when they experience the death, resurrection, and ascension of the Son of Man. Jesus takes the disciples beyond the specific event of becoming and giving bread. He takes them to the whole of the Christ event and its mystery. Jesus, as Bread of Life, must be seen in the larger context of God’s plan of salvation through his Son.
The flesh, as flesh, and without the Spirit, is nothing. It cannot give live, nor does it have life. It is the Spirit that gives life and makes the flesh what it is. This means that simply eating the flesh of Jesus, without the right disposition, will not lead to life. Thus, those who eat and drink are not merely eating Jesus’ flesh and blood but the Spirit filled flesh and blood of Jesus. Even as Jesus offers the gift of life, through becoming bread, the gift is rejected because most prefer death. There are still those who will not believe. They have made their choice. God offers the gift of his Son to all, but not all will accept him. This is why many disciples drew back and no longer went with Jesus. This rejection leads Jesus to turn to the Twelve and ask them about their stand. They must choose whether they will accept or reject the offer of life that God makes in Jesus.
Simon Peter responds on behalf of the Twelve and at least verbally accepts that offer of life. He acknowledges that Jesus has the words of eternal life and that he is the Holy One of God, the one set aside by God.
Life always offers us choices. The choices that we are sometimes faced with might not always be what we desire, but the fact remains that we are free to choose. We can choose to be miserable or to be happy, we can choose to fear or to love, and we can choose to say No or to say Yes. Every choice that we make has its own consequences and we must be prepared to face them since it is we who have made the choice.
Thursday 14 April 2016
Friday, April 15,2016 - When someone places a new idea in front of you, is your first reaction one of rejection?
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts9:1-20; Jn 6:52-59
The first verse of today’s text, which contains the question that the “Jews” ask, is occasioned by the statement that Jesus makes in the previous verse. The agitation in their hearts is because Jesus has identified himself with the bread of life. Jesus replaces the manna that their ancestors ate.
Jesus addresses this protest in the verses that follow. The bread that is to be eaten is the flesh and blood of the Son of Man. Refusal to do this means death or non-life. Eating the flesh and drinking the blood results in life and resurrection on the last day. By not mentioning bread and wine and thus, not equating them with the flesh and blood of Jesus, John focuses on the corporeal and not only on the sacramental representations. He also wants to stress that Jesus gives his whole life to all who are willing to receive him. The flesh that Jesus gives is life giving and so is his blood. It is real food and drink that will end all hunger and thirst.
Eating of the flesh and blood of Jesus leads to a mutual indwelling. The one who eats and drinks abides in Jesus and Jesus abides in that person. This relationship is an extension of the relationship between Jesus and the Father. Just as Jesus lives the Father’s life, so all who eat and drink will live Jesus’ life. The penultimate verse concludes the Bread of Life Discourse and repeats a theme that has been prevalent throughout. The bread which Jesus gives has indeed come from heaven and will give life forever and give it permanently, unlike the manna which could offer only temporary life.
The reference to the synagogue in
is to highlight the difference
between Jesus’ teaching and that of the Jewish teachers and the difference
between the manna eaten by their forefathers and the Bread of Life that Jesus
It is not always easy to accept ideas which challenge our old way of thinking. Often our first reaction is rejection of that idea. We refuse to think outside the box, and are content with stereotypes with which we are comfortable. We are comfortable with them because they do not threaten us or call on us to change. We prefer that our boats not be rocked. However, Jesus continues to rock the boat and challenge our ways of thinking and being. He continues to wake us from our stupor and keeps inviting us to see more and be more.
Wednesday 13 April 2016
Thursday, April 14,2016 - How will you show that you have accepted the gift that God gives in Jesus?
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts8:26-40; Jn 6:41-51
The symbol of “bread” is misunderstood by the people. They respond with unbelief. They grumble at Jesus’ claim that he is the bread of life and has come down from heaven. They protest that they “know” where Jesus comes from, they are aware of his antecedents. Even as they make such a statement, they are unaware of its error. They “think” they know, but in reality do not know.
Jesus addresses the crowd and asks them to stop their grumbling and then repeats the promise made earlier of resurrection on the last day for the ones who will believe. To reiterate the point that he makes, Jesus appeals to scripture and specifically to the prophets. “And they shall all be taught by God” refers to the initiative that God takes. The emphasis is on God who does the teaching. This means that Jesus’ commission is divinely ordained and not from humans. If the ones who hear realize this, then they will come to Jesus and they will have learnt correctly. This means that, while God does take the initiative, humans are responsible for responding accurately.
Jesus shares a unique relationship with the Father and is the only one who has seen Him. Those who learn have to learn to see the Father in Jesus. They have to learn that it is in Jesus that they have eternal life and that he is indeed the Bread of Life.
By using the distancing “your ancestors”, Jesus makes a contrast between the manna that they ate and the bread of life that he gives. The manna their ancestors consumed could not result in saving them from death, but the bread that Jesus gives results in a person living forever. This is because the bread that Jesus gives is living bread, a life giving bread. The bread that he gives for the life of the world is his flesh. This can mean, on one hand, the incarnation, where the Word became flesh, but on the other, can refer to his death on the cross, when he will give his life for the life of the world.
The purpose of Jesus’ coming into the world was to reveal the Father as God who wanted to save all people. This results in God taking the initiative in the tangible way of sending his son to become flesh for all. Even as God takes the initiative, he leaves humans free to respond to his act of love. Humans always have a choice when it comes to the gifts that God gives. They can accept them or reject them. Acceptance means life, rejection means death. There is no middle way.
Tuesday 12 April 2016
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 8:1-8; Jn 6:35-40
Today’s text begins with the last verse that was read yesterday in order to place what follows in context. Jesus has stated that he is the Bread of Life and he invites all who are willing to come to him to be fully satisfied. The words “seeing’ and “believing”, which appear at and again at form an inclusion. The crowd has seen and yet has not perceived. They have not seen rightly and thus, cannot come to faith. This lack of proper vision is surprising when one realizes that Jesus’ primary purpose is not to hide but to reveal. He will welcome all who come to him. They will not be driven away. The purpose of his coming down from heaven is for the sake of revelation. This is the Father’s will and Jesus will do only what the Father commissions him to do. The Father’s will is inclusive and no one is to be excluded unless they want to exclude themselves. If one sees rightly and thus believes, what is gained is eternal life and resurrection on the last day. This promise combines both the present and the future.
These verses bring out powerfully the balance between divine initiative and human response. God takes the first step and remains open to anyone who is willing to come and receive the gifts that he wants to pour out. However, there will not be any coercion or pressure on the part of God. Those who come to receive from him must come freely and without reservation. The gift is ever available and free. It is not for a select few but for all.
Monday 11 April 2016
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts7:51-8:1; Jn 6:30-35
The invitation that Jesus issues to the crowd, to believe in him who was sent by God, results in the crowd asking for a sign. This demand is a clear indication that they have not grasped the meaning of Jesus’ words. They have been fed at the miraculous feeding but were not able to see it for the sign that it was meant to be. The crowd goes further in this demand by looking back at what happened in the desert during the Exodus and how their ancestors were fed. This seems strange, and even absurd, because they have been fed even more abundantly than their ancestors. This also points to how ignorant and even closed the crowd is to the revelation that Jesus continues to make.
Jesus does not remind them that he had already given them bread, but first corrects their misunderstanding. It was not Moses who gave their ancestors bread but his Father. This bread is not merely bread that was given in the past but it continues to be given in the present. It, and not the manna, is the true bread from heaven. It is true bread because it gives life to all who eat it.
Like Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman before them, the crowd does not fully understand what Jesus is really offering and so, make a request for this bread. They are convinced that this bread is better than the bread their ancestors ate, but do not understand how or why. Jesus is available to them and yet, they cannot see. He gives the bread once for all and, in doing so, gives the bread always. This is why Jesus can assert that He is the bread of life. This is the first time in the Gospel of John that the “I am’ saying is followed by a predicate nominative “the bread of life”. John’s Gospel often uses this distinctive way of revealing who Jesus is. The symbols that are used by Jesus in these sayings come from human and Near Eastern religious experience. The use of these common, everyday symbols results in conveying to all who will hear that Jesus can satisfy both the base and higher needs of people everywhere. These symbols indicate that the mystery of Jesus cannot be captured by any one symbol and that Jesus cannot be put into a well defined category.
The saying also contains an invitation to come to him and be sated. Though, on the one hand, the invitation refers to a physical eating and drinking and so satisfying human hunger and thirst, on a deeper level, the invitation is to listen to Jesus’ teaching and see in him the revelation of God and so, the fulfillment of all human needs.
Bread is the staple of many people all over the world and is used to represent the basic needs of people. By use of this symbol, Jesus reveals that his mission is to be available to all and for all. He does not belong exclusively to any one group and no group can ever capture him fully. He is available to all who are open to the revelation that he continues to make. The primary form that this revelation will always take is the form of love.
Sunday 10 April 2016
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts6:8-15; Jn 6:22-29
The first three verses of today’s text, which appear immediately after the miracle of walking on the water, serve as transition verses for the dialogue with the people and the discourse on the bread of life that follow. They also serve to bring the crowd, which had eaten at the miraculous feeding of the five thousand, back into the story and so, link Jesus’ words that follow with the feeding miracle and the miracle of walking on the water.
Since the crowd has not been privy to the miracle of Jesus walking on the water, they wonder how he got to the other side. Jesus does not answer their question but draws attention to their reason for seeking him. Though they have seen the sign that Jesus gave at the miraculous feeding, they were not able to perceive it because their attention was directed to the earthly and temporary, not to the heavenly and permanent. Even as they seek him for temporary food, Jesus invites them to a higher seeking. He asks them to seek for the food that only he can give, the food that endures forever. Jesus is competent to give this food because the Father himself has approved and set his seal on Jesus. In response to Jesus’ statement to not work for food that perishes, the crowd interprets the word “work” to mean certain actions that they must perform to acquire this food. Jesus corrects this misunderstanding by explaining what is meant by “work”. They must believe in Jesus who has been sent by God.
Believing in Jesus does not only mean a verbal profession of faith. In the Gospel of John, the term believing is, most often, used to describe faith that shows itself in action. This is why believing is akin to work. Jesus does not provide merely physical nourishment, but also nourishment of the mind, heart, and spirit. To know and believe in Jesus is to be sated in every aspect of life. It is to never lack or want anything, because all things are provided in him.
Saturday 9 April 2016
Sunday, April 10, 2016 - Third Sunday of Easter - Let us strive for Unity even in Diversity - The Lord is the Lord of all
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 5:27b-32,40b-41; Rev5,11-14; Jn 21:1-19
The post resurrection appearance of Jesus on Lake Tiberius is the Gospel text for today. The focus of these verses is on Jesus and his “Church”. There are three parts to this story. The first deals with the miraculous catch of fish, the second with the recognition of the risen Lord and the third with the dialogue with Peter.
The text begins with Peter telling his companions that he is going fishing. The response of the other six to Peter’s statement is to affirm that they will go with him. This indicates a sense of community and oneness. Though they may not be able to fully understand the significance of going fishing at this crucial time, they will collaborate with Peter. They will pull together. However, despite all their efforts, they are not able to achieve anything. Jesus appears unobtrusively when it is light, and asks a question about the catch. They respond that they have caught nothing. They obey Jesus’ command to cast the net on the right side and are successful. The quantity of fish is so great that they struggle to haul in the net.
The second part of the story narrates the recognition of the risen Lord. The enormity of the catch is detailed in the number of fish caught, namely one hundred fifty three. A variety of interpretations have been offered to explain this number. St. Augustine proposed a mathematical way of reading this number which is regarded even today as plausible. His explanation was that the number 153 is obtained when all of the integers from 1 to 17 are added together; this mathematical fact thus suggests the completeness of the number 153. Others regard the number as clearly indicating that the narration of this event is an eyewitness account of what actually happened. This is why the number is not a round number, but 153. Still another interpretation is that 153 was the number of species of fish known to Greek zoologists of that time and thus, it signifies that every kind or species of fish was caught in the net. This symbolizes that no one is excluded. That the net did not break, despite the fact that there were so many fish, is an indication of unity not only in diversity but even in diversity. That this seems to be the best explanation is confirmed by the fact that the verb “to haul” used here of Peter’s hauling the net ashore is the same verb used to describe those who come to Jesus from God (6:44). It is the same verb that is used to describe the salvific effect of Jesus’ death when he will “draw’ (haul) all people to himself (12:32). Thus, what seemed like aimlessness before the appearance of Jesus becomes with his presence a focussed ministry. The disciples continue the mission of Jesus even when they fish, by drawing all to him. Each one who is drawn to Jesus and makes up a part of his community has his/her place. In this community, diversity is not to be frowned upon but to be celebrated. It is good to be different and yet united. It is good to be unique and special and yet part of the whole. It is good to be an individual and yet part of one community. Thus, exclusivity has no place in any mission that has its roots in Jesus’ mission. All are included and all are welcome. Even more, each retains his/her identity and is still very much a part of the whole. There is no need for uniformity in the family of Jesus, but unity is very much a core value.
The third part of the text links this section with the previous one (21:4-14) through the words, “When they had finished breakfast”. It is a continuation of the appearance of Jesus to the disciples at Lake Tiberius where, because they obey his instructions, they are able to haul in 153 fish.
These verses narrate the conversation that Jesus has with Simon Peter. One possible reason why Jesus asks Peter three questions is because Peter denied him three times. However, it is also important to realize that the three questions are all different. The first question which Jesus asks is inclusive. It includes the other disciples, the boat, the nets, and the fish. Jesus is asking Peter whether Peter loves him more than he loves the other disciples and/or his livelihood. The second question is direct and involves only Jesus and Peter. Everything else recedes into the background. The spotlight shifts to the two. Does Peter love Jesus? Though the third question seems similar to the second, it is really different because in it, Jesus asks Peter about friendship. It reads: “Simon, son of John, are you my friend?” This is a crucial change from the earlier question because, in 15:13, Jesus had explained the true meaning of friendship when he said: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” By affirming that Peter is, indeed, a friend of Jesus, he is affirming his willingness to die for Jesus.
This interpretation is confirmed by the fact that as soon as Peter affirms his friendship, Jesus invites him to lay down his life. The text ends with Jesus inviting Peter to follow him. Though this command of Jesus may be seen as a general invitation to discipleship, here it means a specific command to martyrdom and even death. Peter knows, even as he answers, that trials and difficulties are part and parcel of his commitment. He is aware that following Jesus is not going to be easy and that he will be called to make great sacrifices. He is ready, willing, and able. This willingness is evident in the first reading of today when soon after this event as narrated by the Acts of the Apostles; Peter was willing to suffer for his Lord. Not only was he willing to suffer, he also learnt to rejoice in his suffering because as the second reading states, he knew that in doing so he was being privileged to imitate the lamb that was slain.
The call to follow Jesus today is a call that will continue to be heard as long as there are people who dare to open their hearts to this call. While it will not always be a call to martyrdom by death, like it was in the case of Peter, it will always be a call to be a martyr or witness. This is because the voice of Jesus can only be heard today in his disciples and he can be seen and experienced only when those who profess to follow him reach out in love.