These reflections are a result of more than 40 years of ministry as a Roman Catholic priest. Most of these years I spent in the Diocese of Charlotte which covers Western North Carolina. Now I am retired, and live in Medellín, Colombia where I continue to serve as a priest in the Archdiocese of Medellín.
Jesus 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.” (Jn 21:17-19)
The three denials of Peter are countered by the three questions, "Do you love me?" in this added chapter to the Fourth Gospel (according to John). And Peter is restored to pastoral ministry. And the key words: Follow me.
May they all be one as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that the world may believe that you sent me, says the Lord. (Jn 17:21)
Christian Unity is not optional. That we may all be one is not only the prayer of Jesus, but our unity is essential so that the world may believe.
At Miletus, Paul spoke to the presbyters of the Church of Ephesus: “Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock of which the Holy Spirit has appointed you overseers, in which you tend the Church of God that he acquired with his own Blood . . . . When he had finished speaking he knelt down and prayed with them all. They were all weeping loudly as they threw their arms around Paul and kissed him, for they were deeply distressed that he had said that they would never see his face again. Then they escorted him to the ship. (Acts 20:28,36-38)
During the Roman Empire, Ephesus was an important capital of Western Asia Minor and a early Christian center. This passage represents the fluidity of terminology in early church ministers. Paul summons the presbyters (elders) and then refers to them as overseers (episkopoi). In a much later time these terms will no longer be interchangeable but will represent a hierarchy: bishops (epispopoi), elders (presbyteroi) and deacons (diakonoi). In the Mediterranean world, the tiny ships were the Greyhound buses of today.
Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you, just as you gave him authority over all people, so that your son may give eternal life to all you gave him . . . . I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours, and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them. And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you.” (Jn 17: 1-2, 9-11a)
The 17th chapter of the Fourth Gospel has been called the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus. And it is interesting in that we get to “overhear” Jesus praying. And what a prayer! Like an Old Testament king praying for the troops before a battle, Jesus prays for the disciples. As the Letter to the Hebrews says: Jesus lives to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25).
Jesus said to his disciples: “In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world.” (Jn 16:33)
There was a film made in the 1950’s about the Catholic missions in North Carolina. It was called “In the Footsteps of the Tarheel Apostolate.” The final scene was of a priest celebrating Mass at an overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The priest elevates the host, and then comes the voice over: “The Dream—Every North Carolinian a Catholic.” The Lord conquered the world—but he never said that we would nor that we should try. On the contrary, the Lord said that we would have troubles in the world . . . but not to be afraid.
The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted. Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Mt 28:16-20)
The Great Commission is the gift of the Risen Lord. The Ascension marks the ending of the earthly ministry of Jesus, and the beginning of our own. The Risen Lord entrusts the ministry to us and sends us out to make disciples, to baptize and to teach what we have received. And the promise: I am with you always!
Jesus said to his disciples: “I came from the Father and have come into the world. Now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.” (Jn 16:28)
The Easter Season of Fifty Days is drawing to a close. As we seek to understand these troubling times and to find the Lord in the midst of pain and suffering, we hold on to the hope that the Risen Lord will not abandon us, but will continue to pour out abundantly upon us the Spirit of Love.