The preaching of Boutros Marayati, Armenian Catholic Archbishop of Aleppo, at the prayer of the Community of Sant'Egidio in the basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere on Tuesday 8 July 2014
From the Gospel according to John 21, 15-19
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He then said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to 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".
Dear brothers and sisters, good evening.
I thank the Lord, first of all, for this prayer together. I feel that between Aleppo and Rome there is a spiritual bridge and something that unites us is precisely the Spirit of Jesus, this prayer in which you do not forget to think of us, of all of Syria and especially of Aleppo, of the bishops kidnapped of the priests kidnapped, of children, of young people, of all those that are suffering today because of a war that makes no sense.
So I would like to thank the Community of Sant'Egidio for this link, for the prayers and especially for the help that come to us and support us. We know there are many people that love us and want our good.
On behalf of all those that have not voice, that have not the words, I say to you: thank you!
The figure of Peter, that we saw today while reading this Gospel, is a figure that I like so much. That Peter was a fisherman, but he was one that loved Christ. He left the house, left his wife, his children; one day the Lord came to his house and healed his mother-in-law, as the Gospel says.
But this strong man, of a very natural open character, had doubts: he did not want to go fishing when Jesus said "Go". He had doubts when the Lord said, "Come on, you can walk on water", he started to get into the water and nearly drowned until he enlisted the help of Christ.
This man that did not understand anything of the Kingdom of Heaven and that wanted to defend Jesus with the sword. A man that loved Jesus so much to say: Lord, whom shall we go? Whom shall we go? You have the word of life. But when the time of difficulty came, he denied him three times. He said he always wanted to be with Jesus, but a time came when he denied him three times and cried.
And here we are at the end: before going to heaven, Christ, as an act of penance and as if to say to Peter that he had forgotten his sins because he had cried, he asks three times: Simon Peter, do you love me? And Peter answered him, Lord, Lord, you know that I love you. Three times. Three times he denied him and three times he repeated the same thing: I love you, Lord, I love you.
Dear brothers and sisters,
Jesus says to each of us: Do you love me? Do you love me more than others? We will be blessed if we can answer with Peter: Yes, Lord, you know, you know everything and you know deeply that I love you. Despite all the sins, everything that happens in my life, you are my master, you are my Lord, you are my everything.
One of our Eastern Armenian Fathers wondered: Why? Why did Christ choose this Peter, with all his weaknesses, his ignorance, he who betrayed him three times? Why did he choose him as the head of the other apostles, as the foundation, as the rock of the Church? Why? Was it not better to choose John? This young man that was not married like him, that loved him so much. This John that has not sinned. Why did he choose Peter and not John as the head of the other apostles?
This our father of the Armenian Church answers thus: He chose Peter because he has lived humanity, he has lived the experience of the man that can sin and repent. John was not mature yet. Christ chose someone that can understand the weak, can understand sinners, can understand others and do not be harsh and say: I am better than others.
Here, dear brothers and sisters, Jesus asks us too in Syria, in Aleppo, us who live hard times, without light, without water, without enough to eat, the Lord, during this temptation, asks us: Do you love me? Each day, the Lord says to me and to all the faithful: Do you love me?
Because there are so many that have already lost hope, no longer see the end of this war that reaches everywhere. They are afraid for their children, for the future, they fear for their homes, for themselves. Many have lost their homes.
We do the prayer under the church, not in the church, but in the halls beneath the churches because we are afraid of the missiles falling everywhere. Our archbishopric was hit.
But in all this we want to say to the Lord: Lord, you that know everything, we love you. We are ready to live in this condition because we know that you are with us, do not leave us. We know that you will always be with us and the day of our resurrection will come.
Peter, Simon, do you love me? Yes, Lord, you know that I love you. Amen