Domine, tu omnia scis

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810goya.jpg

Goya's painting of the repentant Apostle Peter fits today's Gospel. Note the keys resting on a rock directly beneath Saint Peter's hands.

Raised Up by the Hand of Christ

Today the Church gives us the Gospel of a saint who fell as low as one can fall, only to be raised up by the hand of the risen Christ. Mysteriously and powerfully, the Holy Ghost is at work in the fallen Saint Peter and in the risen Christ. In Our Lord's encounter with Saint Peter one senses the same communion in the Holy Ghost that binds priest to penitent, and penitent to priest, in the Sacrament of Penance. The Heart of Jesus goes out to the heart of Peter, and the heart of Peter rises to the Heart of Jesus.

In the Responsorial Psalm we heard that, "as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His abiding mercy toward those who fear Him" (Ps 103:11). The pierced Heart of Jesus draws repentance out of His apostle's heart, broken with compunction. The Heart of Jesus overflows with mercy and forgiveness. The heart of the apostle is burdened with the shame of his betrayal and heavy with sorrow.

Peter's Shame

Peter is ashamed of his weakness, ashamed of having trembled with fear in front of a serving girl who recognized him by his Galilean accent, ashamed of having denied Jesus his Lord, not once but three times. Peter's denial was not a private affair. Everyone knew about it. The other apostles were sickened and embarrassed by it. And yet, the word of the psalm finds here its fulfillment: "As far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us" (Ps 103:12).

The Choice of Peter

The ways and choices of God are not the ways and choices of men. As chief shepherd of His Church, Jesus did not designate John, the beloved disciple who rested his head upon the Bridegroom's breast at the Mystical Supper, John who stood faithful with Mary, the Mother of Jesus at the foot of His Cross. He chose rather Peter -- insecure, bumbling, fearful Peter. Peter was to be the pillar of the Church's faith, the servant of the Church's unity, the shepherd chosen to nourish the lambs of Christ and care for His sheep.

Another shepherd, Saint Aelred, the gentle abbot of Rievaulx in the twelfth century, prayed:

O Good Shepherd Jesus,
good, gentle, tender Shepherd,
behold a shepherd, poor and pitiful,
a shepherd of Thy sheep indeed,
but weak and clumsy and of little use,
cries out to Thee.
To Thee, I say, Good Shepherd,
this shepherd, who is not good, makes his prayer.
He cries to Thee,
troubled upon his own account,
and troubled for Thy sheep.
(Saint Aelred of Rievaulx, The Pastoral Prayer)

Reparation

In reparation for his triple denial, Jesus invites Peter to make a triple profession of love. "Simon, Son of John, lovest thou me?" (Jn 21:17) With each profession of love comes a responsibility to nourish and care for the lambs of Christ. One cannot profess to love Christ the Head without enfleshing that love in the feeding and care of Christ's members.

Reparation

It is for us today as it was for Peter then. No matter what our weaknesses are, no matter what our betrayals may have been, Jesus invites us to profess our love, to confess our attachment to Him. He invites us to reparation. Reparation is the love offered to the Heart of Jesus to make up for our denials, for our indifference, and for our want of trust in His mercy. Reparation is also the prayer by which we offer ourselves to Him for the healing of all who are fragmented by sin, wounded, and sick of soul. Adoration of the Eucharistic Face of Jesus, close to His Open Heart, remains the privileged expression of our desire to make reparation.

The Great Thanksgiving

Our Lord nourishes us with His Word and with the Sacred Mysteries of His Body and Blood, that we might nourish one another and, out of the grace of compunction, offer a broken world the healing that we ourselves have received. The work of reparation flows out of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and returns to it. The Mass is the Great Thanksgiving of those "repaired," that is, made whole, by the love of Christ and the action of the Holy Ghost.

Follow Me

In the end we are left with Our Lord's enigmatic and prophetic command to Saint Peter, "Follow Me" (Jn 21:19). Implicit in this command is the gift of the Divine Paraclete, for apart from the Holy Spirit there can be no sequela Christi, no following of Christ. At the close of the Holy Sacrifice, Our Lord says "Follow me" to each of us; the Holy Mysteries are viaticum, food for the journey, and sustenance for the passage out of ourselves into the mystery of Christ. "Follow Me," He says, "follow Me into the unknown. Follow Me into the unfamiliar. Follow Me into the uncharted. Follow Me into the unforeseen.

"Fear not, for I have redeemed thee, and called thee by thy name: thou art Mine. When thou shalt pass through the waters, I will be with thee, and the rivers shall not cover thee: when thou shalt walk in the fire, thou shalt not be burnt, and the flames shall not burn in thee: For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour" (Is 43:2-4).

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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