1st Reading: Acts 25:13b-21
King Agrippa and Bernice arrived in Caesarea on a visit to Festus. Since they spent several days there, Festus referred Paul’s case to the king, saying, “There is a man here left in custody by Felix. When I was in Jerusalem the chief priests and the elders of the Jews brought charges against him and demanded his condemnation. I answered them that it was not Roman practice to hand over an accused person before he has faced his accusers and had the opportunity to defend himself against their charge. His accusers stood around him, but did not charge him with any of the crimes I suspected. Instead they had some issues with him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus who had died but who Paul claimed was alive. Since I was at a loss how to investigate this controversy, I asked if he were willing to go to Jerusalem and there stand trial on these charges. And when Paul appealed that he be held in custody for the Emperor’s decision, I ordered him held until I could send him to Caesar.”
Gospel: Jn 21:15-19
After Jesus had revealed himself to his disciples and eaten breakfast with them, he said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He then said to Simon Peter a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”
Feed my lambs and sheep: Jesus calling Peter, emphasizes the need to continue his mission on earth. This is a commission to those who love more. The tri-questioning is compared to that of the Near Eastern custom where solemnizing a commission is implied, in contracts that confer rights and legal dispositions. Jesus asks twice, using the verb agapaō – ‘Do you love me?’ But Peter responds with the verb phileō – ‘I love you.’ Jesus resorts to ask the third time using Peter’s choice phileō. It is argued that agapaō is the stronger form of love. Peter in his very self-knowledge can not compare his love for the flock to the love Christ demonstrated for him and others. Divine love is incomparable to our human love which is mixed with hatred and anger. Only those who love more can feed God’s lambs and sheep. Lambs representing the weak ones and sheep figuratively denotes those who have gone astray (cf. 1 Pet 2:21–25) or the new disciples in the many afflictions (cf. Mt. 10:16). These two groups need our love as we have been loved (cf. Ep 4:32).
Prayer: Lord, grant me apostolic charity, that I may do everything forcefully yet gently, with meekness and love (St Anthony Mary Claret). Amen.
DO YOU LOVE ME? As we know, the Greek language has many words of love. For our reflection on the gospel narrative of today, two words are important: ‘philia’ and ‘agape’. Philia refers to friendship, and agape refers to self-sacrificing love. When Jesus asks Peter for the first time, he queries, “Peter… do you apagein me?” And Peter replies, Yes Lord, I philein you.” Peter expresses his ability to love Jesus like a friend. Yet the second time, Jesus challenges him, “Peter… do you apagein me?” Once again Peter replies, Yes Lord, I philein you.” However, the third time, Jesus asks, “Peter… do you philein me?” It was at this point the Peter gets emotionally moved that Jesus has come down to his level of loving. Yes, Jesus accepts the way we love him. Then Jesus assures him that one day Peter will be capable of agapeic love.
Prayer: Lord, give me the grace to love you with an agapeic love.
GOD TRUSTS THOSE WHO LOVE HIM: In normal life, we entrust our precious properties or activities to those people who love us for we are sure they will not fail us. We, thus, shouldn’t be surprised when our Lord triple-tests the love and loyalty of Simon Peter who had denied him three times. Then Jesus entrusts him great responsibility shepherding Church. A gesture of hope and encouragement for all who have denied God in one way or another – there is again chance of being trusted by God. He will accept us back make us important partners in his mission. For we know that God always works for the good of those who love him (Rom. 8:28).
Why were they martyred? : One of 22 Ugandan martyrs, Charles Lwanga is the patron of youth and Catholic action in most of tropical Africa. He protected his fellow pages, aged 13 to 30, from the homosexual demands of the Bagandan ruler, Mwanga. Charles first learned of Christ’s teachings from two retainers in the court of Chief Mawulugungu. While a catechumen, he entered the royal household as assistant to Joseph Mukaso, head of the court pages. On the night of Mukaso’s martyrdom for encouraging the African youths to resist Mwanga, Charles requested and received baptism. For his own unwillingness to submit to the immoral acts and his efforts to safeguard the faith of his friends, Charles was burned to death at Namugongo on June 3, 1886, by Mwanga’s order.
HOLD ON TO YOUR FAITH: Today we celebrate the feast of Saint Charles Lwanga and Companions. Under the King’s persecution, they preferred martyrdom to abandoning their Christian faith. Surprisingly, as Lwanga was burning to death slowly, starting with his feet, he praised God and endured all the pain for the sake of Christ. St. Paul writes to Timothy (2 Tm 1: ff) saying that God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but of power, love and self-control. He encourages Timothy to bear his share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God. Paul himself writes of himself saying that he was suffering, yet was not ashamed of the gospel. Mark presents the Sadducees who came to Jesus not to learn but to disturb him. Like the Sadducees there are people around us today that cause disturbance since they are misled. Every year over 100 million Christians or more are persecuted because of their beliefs. While suffering we also believe that our God is a living God who accompanies us.