Gospel Reflections by Father Gerry Pierse, C.Ss.R.

C - 3rd Sunday of Easter


Acts 5:27-32, 40-41 • Rev 5:11-14 • Jn 21:1-19

From Competition to Contemplation

Little five year old Ruby stamped her foot in a tantrum. "I do not want a second place ribbon" she cried, "I want the first place medal." It was recognition day at her Kiddy's Learning Center when the top ten of each class would be lined up and, with appropriate fanfare, be given awards. In this ceremony the little children are given a heavy dose of psychological stroking. Already at five this was making her unhappy rather than happy. The spontaneity of childhood was already gone and adult competition and rivalry were raising their ugly heads.

There is practically nothing that we do that does not have a questionable or shadow side to it. The practice of the motivation of children by awards is certainly one of them. It is sowing the seeds of unhappiness rather than of happiness. Already, at the age of five, Ruby is contaminated. She has learned that she is bright but not bright enough. And what about the children that are in the last ten, those who never get an award? They are being told the lie that they are an inferior species of human being. Because they have not performed well in the particular range that the kiddy school observes and tests, they are being told that they are inferior. Their self image is being shattered. From now on the stroking or the rejecting ceremony will be repeated annually.

The apostle Peter must have gone through the equivalent of kiddy school on the shores of Galilee. He had learned early on that he was of worth for what he did and not for who he was. Everybody else was a competitor with him as he hungered for approval and affection. This situation - which makes some withdraw shyly from others - made him a boastful, impetuous hambugero who missed no opportunity to grab the limelight. When Jesus suggested that one of the disciples was going to betray him he blurted out that he would die for his master: "Even if all of the others deny you, I will not deny you." But we know that Peter failed and failed miserably. When, during the Good Friday trial, a little girl said that he was a follower of Jesus, he denied it vehemently.

But the great thing was that Jesus loved Peter. He loved the person and not the person's performance. In today's Gospel story we see the disciples back fishing. The whole messiah thing was over. It had been an illusion. Their leader had been crucified and they had been exposed in all of their weakness. When, after his resurrection, Jesus come back to the disciples he still loved them in spite of their abysmal performance. This unconditional love that Jesus showed for them as persons enabled them to see themselves, God and the world, in a new light. They were loved for who they were and not for what they did. This is the extraordinary quality of God's love and of all true love.

As the Gospel of St. John closes we see Peter being given a final exam. Jesus asks him, "Do you love me more than these others do?" The way it is put we can see that it was a catch question. It was setting the humbug Peter up to answer in his braggart way. "Of course, Lord, I love you ten times more than the lot of them put together." But the competitive Peter had learned in being forgiven that he was loved for who he was and not for what he did. He had learned that our New Testament God is one who loves us even when we are unlovable. He had learned to move from competition into contemplation. He moved from insecurely fighting to excel others into being happy to dwell under the same roof as the Lord. He would also be happy, rather than jealous, when others were loved by Jesus and responding to him.

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Taken from Sundays into Silence - A Pathway to Life. Copyright © 1998 by Claretian Publications

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Sundays into Silence

A Pathway to Life

by Gerry Pierse, cssr
380 pp., PhP 299, U$ 19.95

“The best word I can find to describe this book is integration. In these reflections on the gospel readings for year A, B, and C of the liturgical cycle, Fr. Pierse integrates the richness of the word of God with experiences and stories from life in the community. He shows how through silence, the word can bear fruit in service and sacrament.” (R. J. Cardinal Vidal)

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