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The Everyday Prayer

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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

This is the Gospel of the poor,
liberation for the imprisoned,
sight for the blind,
freedom for the oppressed.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

John 21, 15-19

When they had eaten, Jesus said to Simon Peter, 'Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others do?' He answered, 'Yes, Lord, you know I love you.' Jesus said to him, 'Feed my lambs.'

A second time he said to him, 'Simon son of John, do you love me?' He replied, 'Yes, Lord, you know I love you.' Jesus said to him, 'Look after my sheep.'

Then he said to him a third time, 'Simon son of John, do you love me?' Peter was hurt that he asked him a third time, 'Do you love me?' and said, 'Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.' Jesus said to him, 'Feed my sheep.

In all truth I tell you, when you were young you put on your own belt and walked where you liked; but when you grow old you will stretch out your hands, and somebody else will put a belt round you and take you where you would rather not go.'

In these words he indicated the kind of death by which Peter would give glory to God. After this he said, 'Follow me.'


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Son of Man came to serve,
whoever wants to be great
should become servant of all.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Gospel passage takes us to the days following the resurrection. The risen Jesus appears for the third time on the shores of the lake of Tiberias. This is the place where Jesus had met the first disciples and called them to follow him. On that same shore, as if to make a new beginning, Jesus encounters them again, after their confusion and scattering. He asks Peter about love three times before entrusting him with the pastoral responsibility for the Church. Jesus knows that the only thing that will keep Peter bound to him forever is not his sense of duty or strength of will, but his desire to repay the limitless love he has received with his own affection. This is why Jesus asks him if he loves him three times in a row, as if to emphasize the fact that this is the essential and continuous question. Jesus' request for love never ends, because love is eternal. And the question is not only directed at Peter. Jesus asks each disciple, “Do you love me?” Love is not just an abstract feeling or something that stops with the relationship between Jesus and the disciple. The love that Jesus asks of Peter is full of responsibility for others. He asks him to “tend” his sheep. Jesus’ love is always a love that takes responsibility for others. Love is never self-referential or separated from Jesus’ plan for salvation. Even in this sense Peter is first: he is the one who teaches us how to love like Jesus and feel responsible for our brothers and sisters. Peter's answer in his dialogue with Jesus is, at first, full of pride and pain, because he thinks the Teacher does not trust him. But Jesus’ insistence overcomes Peter’s resistance and strips bare his weakness, making him feel his deep need to entrust himself once again to Jesus, so that he might learn what it means to love with all his heart, all his mind, and all his strength. Jesus’ next works offer a glimpse of the apostle’s future: “When you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” Peter will at last find his steadfastness which will not rest on the strength of his spirit, as he first thought, but on his ability to trust in the Lord completely, letting himself be guided by him to places he could never have imagined. This is the fulfilment of the prophecy of a fisherman who will be able to use the net of the Gospel to attract crowds of men and women to the Lord. But the work of a pastor is not free of the cross. So it was for Jesus, and so it is for his disciples. Peter’s path is the path for every disciple who wants to follow the Gospel: only with Jesus can we have true life, a life which also includes suffering. Peter does not know where he will end nor by what roads. He knows he will have to suffer, but his trust in the Teacher’s love gives him the ability to respond again to the invitation that he had first heard on those same shores: “Follow me!”

Memory of Jesus crucified