Auxiliary Bishop Sylvester David offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Friday 21 May 2021, during this time of the Coronavirus pandemic. It is also available on the Archdiocese of Cape Town’s Facebook page and YouTube channel. Please also see below the text of his reflection, primarily for the deaf.
21 May 2021. Friday before Pentecost. Reflection on John 21:15-19. Peter, do you love me?
This gospel passage for today’s Mass shows Jesus asking Peter about his love. The original language of the New Testament has several words for love. There is a word for the love shared by family members, another word for the exclusive love between husband and wife, a word for brotherly/sisterly love shared in the Christian community, and another word for the total self giving love on the cross. Of this love Scripture says that we can have no greater love than to lay down our lives for others (John 15:13).
In the passage for today’s Mass Jesus asks Peter if he loves him with a total self-sacrificial love and Peter responds that he loves Jesus but only with a brotherly love. This is very clear in the original text. This happens a second time. Then the third time Jesus asks: “Peter do you only love me with a brotherly love?” That is why Peter was sad – his love for Christ had not yet become total. This however does not stop Jesus from giving him the commission to care for the flock. This is motivation for those of us with pastoral duties: that Jesus trusted Peter with caring for the flock, even in his imperfection. This should move us to rise above our incompleteness and serve others to the best of our abilities.
Looking at our own lives we might well ask: who can love totally? Surely this is impossible. Well, the lives of the saints tell us differently. Maximilian Kolbe was a case in point, as were Bl. Benedict Daswa and Bl. Joseph Gerard OMI who we will celebrate on 29 May. These people show us that when the Spirit of God is in us then we will be capable of such love. The declaration of the angel Gabriel in the first chapter of Luke is clear: “Nothing is impossible to God” (Luke 1:37). This is the type of love that forgets self. It can happen in each of us even if we do not die in martyrdom.
A simple and practical way in which we can love like Christ did is when we forgive. When we forgive we actually renounce our right to hurt back because we have been hurt. When we fail to forgive it is a sign that God’s Spirit is not driving us. When we fail to forgive we harbour resentment. This is a useless emotion akin to plunging a dagger into our own hearts and expecting others to bleed. At times people hurt us and were not aware of it. At other times we could have been hurt through misunderstandings. There are times when the persons who hurt us may even be dead or have moved to other countries but we allow them to inhabit our tortured memories. Archbishop Hurley OMI had as his motto: “where the Spirit is there is freedom”. When we have no freedom from old hurts, it could be pointing to the fact that we do not enjoy a Spirit-filled life. If that is the case, let us prepare in all seriousness to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
Let us pray: Father, we thank you for Jesus and for the way in which he loved. He was clear in his message to us that we ought to love one another as he loved us. Send the Holy Spirit to empower us to love as he did – so that when you look upon us you will be able to say what you said about Jesus: “these are my beloved sons and daughters in whom my heart delights”. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Bishop Sylvester David OMI
VG: Archdiocese of Cape Town