Scripture: 1st Reading: Acts25,13-21; Resp. Psalm: Ps103,1-2,11-12,19-20; Gosp. Accl.: Jn21,15-19; Gospel: Jn21,15-19
In the comfort of our homes, offices, farms, businesses, cars, sometimes we remain obtuse and unmoving about the plight of those who are in the battlefield for the faith, those who are undergoing the most heinous persecutions, who are totally deprived of their humanity. We sometimes forget the implications of imprisonment for being a believer means, the shame of it all, the pain of being punished just for being a believer in the Lord Jesus.
In the face of terrible hatred of the faith, many have buckled and denied their faith in the Lord. This is because the stakes are often very high: the loss of their lives of worldly comfort, prestige, the terrible punishment they would be subjected to, the dangers and the very great possibility of losing their lives. In the face of making a decision for or against Christ, what will be our decision?
St. Paul, the other Apostles and early disciples, the Martyrs and confessors, did not hesitate on what to do. They knew the allurements of the world were not to last; they would give way sooner or later. They chose the everlasting treasures; they chose Jesus, the saviour and redeemer, the only begotten Son of God. In the first reading today, St. Paul continued to give the witness even under chains in the solitary prison confinement he was thrown into.
Festus, the Roman Governor and procurator of the city, the king Agrippa and his sister Bernice, all the leading men and women of the city, listened to the final testimony of this great witness of Christ. In utter ignorance, Festus referred to faith in Christ as superstition, and ranked it alongside the religion of the Jews. He claimed that the point in dispute was about Jesus Christ, who was dead, but whom Paul claimed to be alive. So, the dispute was about who Jesus was and the claim of resurrection from the dead. Festus claimed he found Paul innocent of the charges the Jews brought against him.
The dangers to his life notwithstanding, Paul gave an astounding defence of his beliefs and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He witnessed to the Lord with boldness and conviction. This exactly was the point our Lord made to Simon Peter in today's gospel passage. Our Lord told Simon that discipleship was not a child's play. Leadership in the community of believers was not an honour, but a service. Discipleship was nothing but the love of the Master in all things, a love that moves the disciple to spend himself in service of the brother or sister.
Our Lord gave Simon the command and testament to feed His lambs, tend His sheep, feed His sheep. This, for Simon, was an opportunity to profess his faith in the Lord, renew his acceptance of the mission entrusted to him, and start in earnest to understand that this was going to be a role that would cost him his life. He was told by our Lord in simple but clear terms that he was not going to be in charge of his life any longer: the Lord Jesus was going to be the One to lead and direct him. He was no longer going to live: Christ Jesus would henceforth be living in him.
St. Peter accepted the command of the Lord. He made himself a ready vessel in the hands of the Lord. Like St Paul, his life bore great fruits. They both followed the Lord till the end. They both paid the greatest price for discipleship. They both died a martyr's death. Their praises have never ceased to be sung throughout the world. Such is the reward for fidelity to the Lord. Are we ready today to witness to Him? Are we ready to stand up and be counted? Do we love our lives and comfort more than Him?
Let us pray: "O God, who by the glorification of your Christ and the light of the Holy Spirit have unlocked for us the gates of eternity, grant, we pray, that, partaking of so great a gift, our devotion may grow deeper and our faith be strengthened." Amen.
May the Living Word of God find a true dwelling place within our hearts and souls today and always.