Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J.

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Keys to the kingdom. (Matt. 16: 13-29) “And so I say to you, you are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven. And whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Peter’s faith. (Matt. 26: 31-34) “Then Jesus said to them, this night all of you will have your faith in me shaken, for it is written I will strike the shepherd and the sheep of the flock will be dispersed. But after I have been raised up I shall go before you to Galilee.”

Peter said to him in reply, ”Though all may have their faith shaken mine will never be.” Jesus said to him, “Amen I say to you, this very night before the cock crows you will deny me three times.” Peter said to him, “Even though I should have to die with you, I will never deny you.”

Peter’s faith fails. (Matt. 26:69-75) One of the maids came over to him and said, “You too were with Jesus the Galilean.” But he denied it in front of everyone, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about.” As he went out to the gate another girl saw him and said to those who were there, ”This man was with Jesus the Nazorean.” Again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man.” A little later the bystanders came over and said to Peter, ”Surely you too are one of them; even your speech gives you away.” At that he began to curse and swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately a cock crowed.

Coronation of Peter as Pope. (John 21:1-23) It is this fishing trip on the shores of the Sea of Tiberias that sets the stage for one of the most powerful scenes in the whole of the Gospel: the encounter of the humiliated, chastened Simon Peter with his crucified and risen Lord. The scene has all the drama of the parable of the Prodigal Son. In fact, as Simon approached the Lord his thoughts must have been similar to those of the Prodigal Son as he approached his father. “I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am not worthy…”

But before Simon can get a word out the Lord says, “Bring me some of the fish you have caught.” And the Lord proceeds to prepare a breakfast for them. All during the meal Simon is silent, embarrassed, waiting for the rebuke he so justly deserves, “Simon, why did you deny three times that you even knew me?” But there is no rebuke.

Instead Jesus asks Simon, “Do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Then he said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” Jesus said to him a third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter distressed that he had been asked a third time said, “Lord, you know all things, you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. (John 21:1-23) In other words:

Peter, love my sheep as I have loved you.

Peter, forgive my sheep, as I have forgiven you. And remember, “Forgiveness is not the verdict of a judge but the embrace of a lover.”

Peter, be the good shepherd who will leave the ninety-nine in the flock in search of the one lost stray and who will lay down his life for his sheep.

Pope Francis is the good shepherd today. May he have a very long life!


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