Archbishop’s Teaching

5th Sunday after The Resurrection

Homily of His Excellency Msgr. Selim Sfeir Maronite Archbishop of Cyprus Jesus Reinstates Peter (John 21: 15 - 19)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Peter rushed in on the night of Jesus' arrest, driven by his excessive love for him. He declared that he would never abandon or doubt Jesus, forgetting that he was a weak man, perhaps incapable of keeping his promises. Jesus answered: “The cock won`t crow until you have denied me three times” John 13:38.

Here, after the resurrection, Jesus stands face to face with Peter, who has denied him three times, not to shame him for his actions, not to blame him for his denial, nor to take revenge on him, but to express his forgiveness. The moments of intimacy with God are the most beautiful, as he touches the wounds that cause us pain—not to doubt, as Thomas did, but to heal the bleeding wounds in our lives, because Jesus, who knows the depths of our hearts, does not doubt us, but believes in us despite our fragility!

Jesus asked Peter: “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me?” Peter replied, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Then Jesus asked him the same question a second time, and Peter's answer was the same. But the third time was the most important, “Peter was grieved that he had said to him for the third time: Do you love me? And he answered him, Lord, you know everything, you know that I love you.” Peter's sadness brought out of its depth a response that carried with it repentance and an awareness of the weakness of his human nature. “You know everything.” Yes, you know that I love you even though I have failed you and denied you, so now I leave it to your love to judge me! In this context, the apostle Paul says, “ Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” 2 Corinthians 7:10

The most important question the text asks us: How does the healer of hearts cure the disease of sin that brought Adam, Peter and us down? The remedy comes from the mouth of Jesus in the form of a question to Peter, and to us as well: “Do you love me?”

Yes, God's love is the remedy. Who can mistreat the one he loves? And if he does, shouldn't he be saddened like Peter, hasten to repentance and ask forgiveness? The Bible tells us: “Charity covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8 It also says: “Love covers all wrongs.” Proverbs 10:12 “For love is strong as death.” Song of Solomon 8:6

“the Lord searches every heart and penetrates every purpose and thought.” 1Chronicles 28:9 He knows our weakness and knows how much we have denied him in our behavior and actions. But he also knows that we love him, so he asks each of us today, individually, as he questioned Peter: “Do you love me?”

God doesn't ask us if we love him to condemn for our sins, but he asks the question of his heart, which has lived love to the point of giving itself, to awaken the emotions of our consciences, to lead us to a repentance that leads us to our salvation. God only asks for our love, because everything we can do or give is only of value with love. “ If one were to give all the wealth of one’s house for love, it would be utterly scorned” Song of Solomon 8: 7. And the apostle Paul tells us, “ If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:3

Today we repent before God and answer: “You know everything. You know that I love you.” And with the psalmist, we say to him, “Search me, God, and know my heart! Test me, and know my anxious thoughts! See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” Psalms 139:23-24

† Selim Sfeir
Maronite Archbishop of Cyprus

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