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
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.
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
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.
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.