Monday
Jun242019

The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) - Deacon Bill Tunilla

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ also known as the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, which translates from Latin to "Body of Christ." This feast originated in France in the mid-thirteenth century and was extended to the whole Church by Pope Urban IV in 1264. This feast is celebrated on the Thursday following Trinity Sunday.  Here in the US it is celebrated the following Sunday.

This feast calls us to focus on the two manifestations of the Body of Christ; the Holy Eucharist and the Church. The primary purpose of this feast is to focus our attention on the Eucharist. The opening prayer we just heard before the readings calls our attention to Jesus' suffering and death and our worship of Him, especially in the Eucharist.

The secondary focus of this feast is upon the Body of Christ as it is present in the Church. The Church is called the Body of Christ because of the intimate communion Jesus shares with his disciples.

He expresses this in the gospels by using the metaphor of a body in which He is the head. This image helps keep in focus both the unity and the diversity of the Church.

Our Gospel reading from Luke is not what we might have expected for Corpus Christi.  We may have expected Luke’s account of the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper.  Instead we just heard the miracle of the fish and loaves which does have Eucharistic overtones especially with the words, taken, blessed, broken and given. This is the only miracle of Jesus that is in all the four gospels. (Matt.14:13; Mk.6:34; Jn.6:1).

Luke begins with Jesus speaking to the crowds about the kingdom of God and healing those who needed to be cured.   Luke tells us, “As the day was drawing to a close, the Twelve approached him and said, Dismiss the crowd so they can go and find food, for we are in a deserted place.

Jesus responds probably to their amazement, “Give them some food yourself.”  I know if I was present I sure would have been taken back by the words of our Lord.  Then the disciples respond, “But we only have five loaves and two fish.  So what do you want us to do? 

Jesus instructs them to sit down in groups of 50.  But Before Jesus distributed the food he blessed it and said grace. The blessing was said in every home in Palestine before every meal, "Blessed art thou, Jehovah, our God, King of the world, who caused bread to come forth from the earth."

Now there is a Jewish saying that goes, "He who enjoys anything without thanksgiving is as though he robbed God." Jesus would not eat without first giving thanks to the giver of good gifts.

There are two ways many have looked at this miracle. First, some have accepted and simply seen it as a miracle in which Jesus created food for this vast multitude. Others have believed that the people were utterly selfish and all had something with them, but wouldn’t produce it because they were afraid them may have to share it with someone.

But when the Twelve laid before the multitude their little store, those selfish were moved to produce theirs.  In the end there was more than enough for everyone. So it may be regarded as a miracle which turned selfish, suspicious folk into generous people, a miracle of Christ changing determined self-interest into a willingness to share.

 This Gospel passage shows us that Jesus is generous to His people.  At the end of our reading we heard there was more than enough to go around, 12 wicker baskets to be precise. 

God is like that.  An image that comes to me is during this season when we plant a packet of seeds and then thin the plants out and often throw out far more than we can use.  God has created a world where there is more than enough for all of us if we share.

The second thing I would like to share about what this gospel shows us that there is a permanent truth in an action in time.  In Jesus all our needs are supplied. There is a hunger of the soul in every man, woman and child, a deep longing within our souls to find something in which to invest our lives in.  Our hearts are restless until they rest in him. For St. Paul tells us in Phil 4:19, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory to Christ Jesus.”

The Eucharist, unlike baptism and confirmation isn’t a sacrament we experience only once.  We are called to come to table of plenty to be with Jesus as often as we can.  Jesus wants to nourish and strengthen us as we move along our faith journey.  St. Augustine said to the catechumens on the Feast of Pentecost, “Become what you see, and receive what you are.” 

The Body and Blood of Christ is to be adored and is to be received with greatest of love and respect that you can muster. Please do not take the bread of life who is Jesus for granted. Let us recall our great history of those holy men and women who died protecting consecrated hosts and the priests that consecrate them for us.   

We must be sincerely thankful and should fast at least one hour before we receive Holy Eucharist.  Let us ensure when we enter into the sanctuary, we are reverent and quiet, for this should be an area of sacred silence except for the prayers shared during Mass. 

Let us come in and genuflect to God in the tabernacle and if we pass before the altar, let us bow before it.  When we receive the consecrated bread, it is Jesus so we bow while the person in front of us receives Jesus and when the minister holds up the host to us and says “Body of Christ, we proclaim “AMEN”, Yes, Lord, I believe it is you.   

If we want to receive in our hands, let us do it with dignity befitting our King and Savior.  Make a little throne with your hands with putting your dominant hand on the bottom.  If we want the sacred body on your tongue, tip back you head slightly and open your mouth wide enough and bring out your tongue far enough so that Father or the EM can place the host on it. We must never take the body of Jesus from the altar to consume it later, to give to another, or to place in the bottom of our bag.

If you are not Catholic or are Catholic but not in a state of grace or for some other reason are unable to receive Jesus please come up with your hands folded across your chest and you will receive a blessing instead.  

So let us stand a little taller with a little more reverence and remember that this is not just a piece of bread we eat, but Jesus, our God who is truly present in this Holy consecrated bread. Let us revere him, love him and be in fervent prayer to become what we receive…… the Body and Blood of Christ completely poured out for us and others.  Not only on this holy feast day of Corpus Christi, but at every Mass we are blessed to attend.

 

Monday
Jun172019

The Solemnity of Holy Trinity Homily-Fr. Andrew Lee

You have probably run into a famous Russian painter, Andrea Rublev’s icon of The Trinity, also called The Hospitality of Abraham. This is his most famous work and is regarded as one of the highest achievements in Russian art. The icon is derived from Genesis 18: 1-8. The icon depicts three angels who are visiting Abraham at the oak of Mamre. The three angels who are symbolic of the Holy Trinity are sitting at a table with spiritual peace, humility, harmony, and mutual love. One time a Maryknoll priest led a retreat in the seminary when I was a seminarian. He brought this icon and set it on a table in a conference room where he gave talks and left it during the whole time of the retreat. That was the first time I saw this icon. As I gazed at the icon, I was drawn into a deep contemplation on the Blessed Trinity in the retreat.

Today is the solemnity of the Holy Trinity. We are invited to reflect on the mystery of the Holy Trinity. No human words can properly describe the depth of the mysterious relationship in the Trinity because it remains the central mystery both of our Christian faith and of Christian life. Therefore, the Trinity is at the heart of what Christ came to reveal and how He teaches us to live. In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of the mysterious works among the three persons in the Trinity. “When he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth…Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.” The relationship among the Trinity is the unity through a giving out.      

Let us go back to the icon. Like I said, Abraham receives three visitors as he camps by the oak of Mamre in Genesis 18. As the conversation goes on, he seems to talk straight to God. There are three gold winged figures in the icon, sitting at a table where a golden chalice like a bowl contains a roasted lamb. This is symbolic of the Lamb of God. The three persons in the Trinity tilt their heads looking down to the table with humility. This icon symbolizes that the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit give out one another in their own ways at the Eucharistic table. The Father is the table that offers us food. The Son is the Food itself for us. He is giving Himself out at the table where there is nourishment and strength. The Holy Spirit is a Waiter for us who serves us and enlightens us and inspires us to follow the mystery. This special and very inspiring icon tells us that the relationship in the Holy Trinity is the unity through a giving out. By serving one another, the Holy Trinity reveals the mystery and encourages us to follow the way of Christian life.

Therefore, the mystery of the Trinity is a great example of loving, inviting, and united relationship which we are supposed to follow. This giving out relationship is completely accomplished in the Paschal Mystery: the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We finished celebrating this mystery liturgically on Pentecost last week. We, through faith, have full access to the Triune God whose love is manifested in the Paschal Mystery. “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” St. Paul reaffirms us in the second reading that invites us to experience the Mystery through our faith.

Once again, how do we live out Trinitarian life?  We are asked to participate in the loving and giving out relationship that the Trinity shares among themselves. Like I said, the Father provides the table where we enjoy Eternal feast, and the Son becomes the Food itself that gives us life, and the Holy Spirit walks with us to keep this life in our relationships through encouragement and inspiration. This is the way of Christian life: the Trinitarian faith.

We have a lot of the Trinitarian expressions in the Church. When we are baptized, we confess the Trinity. “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” When we simply make the sign of the cross, we pray to the Triune God. “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” When we say Glory to God, we also make our Trinitarian profession. There are many prayers in the Church that lead us to the profession of the Triune God and also remind us that we are led to a profound understanding of what the nature of God is: a giving out relationship. The Father is the source of redemption, and the Son is the achievement and the embodiment of the Father’s love, and the Holy Spirit is the continuation of this unmitigated love.

God is this giving out relationship. We are supposed to live all human relationship as communions of love that reflect God’s life-giving love. Christ has shown us concretely that the essence of love is the gift of self. The Vatican II Constitution on the Church in the modern world (Gaudium et Spes), says, “man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.” Without giving oneself out, there is no way to fulfill the purpose and nature of human beings. If we gaze at the Trinity, we find the perfect example that shows us how to live out faith in God. Therefore, let us humbly seek the love that the three persons in the Trinity show us, sitting together at the Eucharistic table, and telling us that this is the body and the blood of life that they give out. We ask God in this mass to establish the Trinitarian relationships among us and give us a profound understanding of being receptive of the gift of one another’s selves. This is called the Kingdom of God the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Tuesday
Jun042019

The Ascension of The Lord - Deacon Bill Finnegan

I am going to do something today that I have never done before.  I am going to preach on the Acts of the Apostles.  The Acts, as they are called briefly, is the story of the spread of the early Church, especially among the Gentiles.  It deals mainly with the travels of Sts. Peter and Paul, along with their many companions - including Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, and the evangelists Mark & Luke.  It is believed that St. Luke, whose Gospel we hear throughout the years in Cycle C, like this year, is also the author of the Acts of the Apostles. 

There is a lot to be learned about this Catholic Church of ours from reading the Acts of the Apostles.  The first deacons were chosen in chapter 6, with the first Christian Martyr, the good deacon St. Stephen, soon to follow; Canon Law got its start, in some sense, in chapter 15 with the Council of Jerusalem, when Peter, Paul, James, and others came together to decide if Gentiles must first be circumcised in oder to become Christian.  They decided that it was not necessary, but cautioned against unlawful marriage. Thus the Church, in its wisdom, chooses that the Acts be the first reading at daily Mass every day from Easter to Pentecost, with the occasional exception for a special feast day.  It is a continuing saga, as those of you who attend Mass daily, or read the readings every day, well know.  It is like the old serial radio shows, for those of you who remember radio (other than talk radio), where each day would be a cliff-hanger to be continued tomorrow, same time, same station.  That’s what it has been like at daily Mass. 

Today’s feast day of the Ascension is very important in the life of the Church, whether it is celebrated on the Thursday, forty days after Easter, or on a Sunday.  It is interesting that we have been listening to readings from this book for six weeks now, and it is only today that we heard “[A reading from] The beginning of the Acts of the Apostles”.   I also just proclaimed “The conclusion of the Holy Gospel according to Luke”.  (In cycles A & B, it is the “conclusion” of Matthew & Mark, respectively.)  All of the Synoptic Gospels end with the story of the Ascension.  And they are always paired with the Acts’ description of the same event, indicating that this event is a major shift, so to speak, in salvation history. 

I have often preached on my theory of the closeness of the Triune God to His people throughout salvation history.  In the Old Testament era, God the Father was continually present to His chosen people, the Jewish people.  God’s call of Abraham began it all.  His multiple interactions with Moses, beginning with the “burning bush”, and continuing with the exodus from Egypt, parting the Red Sea, and receiving the Ten Commandments, show God was ever-present to the Hebrew people.  In the time of the Judges, the Prophets & the Kings, God was always very close to His chosen, even who they chose to stray from Him. 

Then came the era of Redemption, when God the Son came down to earth to personally be with His people.  But once again God was rejected by His own.  That era began with Incarnation of Jesus in the womb of Mary, and ended with today’s reading when Jesus, “As He blessed them He parted from them and was taken up to heaven.”  (In older translations it says, “He left them, and was taken up to heaven”.  [“He left” - More on that later.])  Thus ended the era of Jesus, as true man, walking the face of the earth.   But God’s interaction and presence to His chosen people, now us, did not end with the Ascension. 

For weeks, again in the daily readings, this time from the Gospel according to St. John, we have been hearing from Jesus’ farewell discourse, at the Last Supper.  He announces His impending Passion, Death and Resurrection, including the betrayal of Judas and the denials of Peter.  He also announces to them the plan to return to the Father and to send God, the Holy Spirit, to guide His Church after His departure.  We will celebrate that blessed and momentous event next week on the Feast of Pentecost.  From that first Christian Pentecost, fifty days after Easter (I say Christian Pentecost because the Jews already celebrated 50 days after Passover), to this very day, God, the Holy Spirit, has been guiding this Church of ours.  The influence of the Holy Spirit can be seen in the pages of the Acts of the Apostles.  

I looked in an old Douay-Rheims Bible to get a little background on the Acts of the Apostles.  Acts was written about 30 years after Jesus’ death.  St. Luke wrote his version of the Gospel at the same time.  Some scholars think that Luke’s Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles was intended as a single work.  However, they come down to us as two different books, both addressed to Theophilus - which means “friend of God”.  The introduction to Acts from my old Bible states:

The Acts is a necessary and beautiful supplement to the history of the Gospels, describing with great accuracy and literary charm the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise to send the Holy Spirit to sanctify and guide His Church, and so it has aptly been called  the Gospel of the Holy Spirit. 

Sometimes we, like the Jews of old, fail to live up to our calling, but God never fails to live up to His promises in the New Covenant with us.  The Spirit remains with us at all times guiding and directing our Church, even if we don’t always see His actions and realize His presence.  When things are not going well in our individual lives, we may want to pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance. 

Once again, the local Church, the Archdiocese of Anchorage, is in a state of flux.  Archbishop Etienne has been named the Coadjutor Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Seattle.  What that means is that he will automatically become the Archbishop of Seattle on the retirement of Archbishop Sartain, who is suffering from poor health.   We here in Anchorage are familiar with the term “Coadjutor”, since we had the same situation many years ago when Bishop Schwietz was named Coadjutor for Archbishop Hurley.  I was at the Mass of Thanksgiving for Archbishop Etienne at the Co-Cathedral the other night, and someone mentioned that this is the first time a shepherd of the archdiocese will leave -  Archbishop Hurley retired, but stayed; Archbishop Schwietz retired, but stayed!  Not so with A/B Etienne!  (Note: I was corrected after the Saturday Vigil Mass, since Archbishop Ryan left to go to the Military Ordinariate.) 

The Mass on Wednesday was very moving, especially the archbishop’s homily, speaking of the joys he has experienced here and his sadness in moving on - based on the prompting of the Holy Spirit.  The readings were very appropriate.  They were not special readings, but the readings for the day.  Jesus, in St. John’s Gospel, promises to send the Holy Spirit, after he leaves them.  In Acts, St. Paul attempts to convert the Athenians from an “unknown god” to the “one true God” by relating the story of Jesus.  After, piquing their interest, and they are asking for more, Acts says simply, “And Paul left them.”  (“Paul left”!) 

Well our A/B Paul just left us; he flew south Saturday.  He flew, unlike St. Paul who travelled by boat or on foot, to come to the aid of A/B Sartain and the people of Seattle.  Many of you may not know, but Fr. Peter Sartain was our pastor when we were back in Memphis, at the time we relocated to Anchorage.  (And he has never forgiven us for that.)  Excuse my familiarity but Paul is going to assist Peter - Peter and Paul, together again.  And while we await a new shepherd, we have the promised Holy Spirit to continue to guide the Catholic people of Anchorage.  “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful, enkindle in [us] the fire of your love.”

Tuesday
May282019

The 6th Sunday of Easter Homily-Fr. Andrew Lee

Did you have wonderful masses with Fr. Jerry Hackenmueller and Fr. Ben (Fr. Armand) for the last 2 weeks? Was it good? Good. Thanks to the priests, I was able to have a vacation for 2 weeks. Like I said, I went to Cordova to enjoy my break time. Some people think I was filling in Fr. Michael Kim. But no. I had a vacation, relaxing and doing nothing there and recharging myself with Fr. Michael. You know that he and I were classmates, so spending time with him was great like the old time when we were together in the seminary. A lot of talking and recollecting memories of the seminary. It was really good. I am glad to go there for my vacation. Fr. Michael said Hi to you all. He is doing very well. He likes the place and the people. He is adjusting well there. It’s been already 10 months and it seems that everybody there loves him. And it seems that the fact that the town is isolated, because you can go there by plane or ferry, doesn’t affect him. Neither is he bothered by rainy weather.

It was wet most of time when I was there: rainy and windy almost every day the first week I got there. It got better the second week. I had some sunny days in the second week. Cordova is a small fishing town but a beautiful city when not wet. It’s gorgeous when it is sunny: the harbor, mountains, lakes, oceans, birds, and so on. I walked almost every day to the harbor and watched the colorful and magnificent sunset over the ocean especially on nice days. Not many people. I was told there are about 2,000 residents. Of course, more people come in the summer like fishermen, cannery workers, and tourists. Because of the small population and natural beauty, it is very quiet, still, and peaceful. I feel God’s peace in the silence.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus says that He gives the disciples peace: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you.” When I read this part of the Gospel, I asked myself, “What kind of peace is Jesus talking about? Why is Jesus’ peace different from the peace that the world gives us?” The peace that Jesus gives is not simply a state without wars or conflicts. This is not the world peace that we can gain after a military fight. We don’t get this through appeasement. We are spiritually and mentally at peace when we have Jesus’ presence in our hearts. Jesus’ presence itself gives us peace. Jesus also says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” It is because Jesus’ presence is experienced in the disciples’ post-resurrection stories even though they still have their worries, despairs, disappointments, and discouragement. Jesus’ peace is inscribed in their troubled hearts when they become aware of Jesus’ presence.

No celebration of Easter would be complete without a reference to the peace that the Paschal mystery brings to us. Through Jesus’ action of dying and rising which is the Paschal Mystery, the peace would be fulfilled through our faith. Jesus’ appearance to the apostles after His resurrection transforms their sorrow and trouble into heavenly peace. This is given through Jesus’ presence. This is the gift from Jesus.

In the first reading, the early Christian communities experience dissension and controversy over the requirements of the converts. The apostles’ letter tells us how the leaders of the Church resolve those conflicts and bring peace to the Church. Through this process, the apostles establish the deposit of faith and spread the right manner of being Christians. And the second reading describes the heavenly peace with the presence of God through the vision of John. “I saw no temple in the city for its temple is the Lord God almighty and the Lamb. The city had no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gave it light, and its lamp was the Lamb.” Easter season is a time to deeply reflect on Jesus’ peace and to bring the heavenly peace to the world.

And then a question arises: how do we fully enjoy the peace that Jesus brings through the Paschal Mystery? How do we let the peace flow through us into the world? There is an answer in today’s readings. Obtaining peace is made possible when the Holy Spirit comes to the disciples’ hearts. That is why Jesus says in today’s Gospel, which is a part of Jesus’ farewell discourse: “I have told you this while I am with you. The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” We have to be guided by the Holy Spirit to know how to enjoy the peace of the Paschal Mystery. When the apostles write a letter to the faithful to settle the issue in the first reading, they say, “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities.” The apostles know that any decision without the Holy Spirit’s inspiration easily fails. They pray and invite the Holy Spirit before the pastoral decision.

As the Easter weeks go on, the Church begins to draw our attention to the Holy Spirit. Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the ‘Paraclete,’ meaning “he who is called to one’s side or advocate.” The Holy Spirit tells us what is wrong and what is right. “The Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in my name will teach you everything.” Through the teaching of the Holy Spirit, we know the way of Jesus’ peace. We are taught how the peace of the resurrection flows into the world even though we feel discouraged, disappointed, and devastated. Through the Holy Spirit, we come to realize that Jesus is present all the time through the Sacraments, and this real presence in the Eucharist is the only way to enjoy and spread the peace.

Jesus promises to be with us until the end of the world. His presence gives us the gift of peace. Jesus is still working through the Holy Spirit, our Advocate. Let us thank Jesus in this mass for being present in the Eucharist and leading us to the taste of heavenly peace through the Paraclete.

Tuesday
May072019

The 3rd Sunday of Easter Homily-Fr. Andrew Lee

Last week, we heard that on the very evening of the resurrection, Jesus appeared to the disciples hidden in a room for fear of the Jews, left His disciples in peace, and led them from unbelieving to believing through this revelation. This experience gives them confidence that Jesus is truly resurrected and He is the Messiah. In today’s Gospel, we continue to hear another beautiful Jesus’ revelation story that tells us how to encounter Jesus Christ. We are living in the Easter Season when we are invited to encounter the Risen Lord. As we hear how the disciples experience the reunion with their Master on the shore-this is the third revelation of Jesus, we come to the realization that the Risen Christ’s presence is around us all the time, bringing peace and love to us, and giving us the best gift of eternal life. Therefore, we need to listen carefully to John’s Gospel’s accounts on the post-resurrection event today and reflect on what the experience of the encounter with the resurrected Jesus brings to us. This gospel has a lot of meaningful and spiritual foods for thought. I’d like to make some points today.

First, Peter and the other disciples are going fishing because they don’t know what to do after Jesus’ resurrection. But they go to Lake Tiberias and cast a net but catch nothing all night long. At dawn Jesus standing on the shore orders them to lower their net on the right side of the boat. Here the fact that Jesus appears to the disciples at DAWN catches our attention. He doesn’t reveal Himself in the daytime. He comes to the disciples at dawn in the dark. “Night” in John’s Gospel is symbolic of darkness. By describing some events happening at night, John insinuates that Jesus is the true Light. Do you remember the story of Nicodemus? We have heard this Gospel account at the daily masses last week. The conversation between the Pharisee and Jesus takes place in the darkness. Nicodemus comes to visit Jesus at dawn. And it is also at dawn when Mary Magdala comes to the tomb of Jesus. And it is also in the darkness when Peter denies Jesus three times when he is asked if he has been with Jesus. John uses “at night, before dawn” to indicate a state of not knowing, being in the dark. This symbolism means that Jesus’ resurrection brings light and hope to the dark world. Light comes down as Jesus shows up. There is light coming up where Jesus is. We finally enjoy light which is salvation through Jesus’ resurrection.

Second, Peter and the other disciples fail to catch fish, but they cast their net in obedience to Jesus’ suggestion and get a lot of fish. What does this scene remind you of? It reminds us of the time when Jesus first called Peter and his friends. It tells us where we should go in order to meet Jesus. We should go back where we first encountered Jesus. That is where we can meet the resurrected Jesus.

Third, Jesus and the disciples have breakfast together after they catch a lot of fish. But no one asks who he is because they all know he is the Lord. It means Jesus invites us to His Eucharistic sacrament every moment. The breakfast that Jesus prepares and serves to His disciples has a Eucharistic overtone. The Gospel says, “Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them and in like manner the fish.” Jesus feeds them. Indeed, in the Eucharist, the Risen Lord continues to be present to us, to feed us in the sacramental form of bread and wine. The glorified Jesus nourishes us with His own body and blood. The Easter event of the Risen Lord feeding His flock continues to be actualized in the “here and now” of the Church through the Eucharist, the Sacrament of Christ’s Passover.

The last part of today’s Gospel is about the special pastoral ministry that Peter receives from the Lord. “Tend my sheep.” This is the special entrustment to Peter and his successors. But there is a wonderful conversation before this special assignment. After Jesus and His disciples finish the breakfast, Jesus asks Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” And Peter answers, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” And Jesus says, “Feed my lambs.” And the second time, Jesus asks the same question, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” And then the same Q & A takes place the third time. Why do you think Jesus asks Peter the same question three times?

We have to pay attention to ‘the charcoal fire’ where this threefold profession of love happens. There is one more charcoal fire in John’s Gospel. Do you know where? That is John 18:18 where Peter denied his Master three times. This betrayal happened around the charcoal fire. “Then the maid who was the gatekeeper said to Peter, ‘You are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ Now the slaves and the guards were standing around a charcoal fire that they had made, because it was cold, and were warming themselves. Peter was also standing there keeping warm.”

How do you think Peter would feel when he comes up to the shore and sees Jesus prepare the breakfast around the charcoal fire? What do you think Peter would feel when he is asked the same question three times? He must be guilty, haunted, and terrified because of his denial. But Jesus does not ask Peter for an apology, a pledge of allegiance, or a testimony of faith. He already knows Peter’s sorrow and repentance. Jesus simply asks, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Love is the only question Jesus asks.

Jesus still asks us all, “Do you love me?” We are faced with the same question every day. He already knows our feelings: sorrow, guilt, regret, wounds, pain, frustration, sadness, and so on. But Jesus doesn’t condemn us. He simply wants us to recognize Him with the eyes of love. “Do you love me?” By asking the question, Jesus opens our eyes to see the image of God within us and invites us to love Him more through the likeness. That is all.

Now some challenges remain. Are we going to allow Jesus to come and transform us with His love? Are we going to open ourselves to the encounter with the Risen Christ? Are we going to answer, “Yes. Lord. I love you,” and continue the ministry of tending one another? These are the questions we have to answer in the season of Easter. And it is now time to move forward to the mission that Jesus gives us: spreading His love that resonates in our hearts when we are asked, “Do you love me?” Let us continue to pray about these challenges in this mass.