Be Humble or Be Humbled

John 21: 15-19
Acts 25: 13-21 / Ps 103: 1-2,11-12,19-20

“Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
(John 21:17)

Genuine love there can never be
Without the grace of humility;
As pride is the downfall of men
Penitence will restore love again.

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time He said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then He said to him, “Follow me!” (John 21:15-19)

Reflection

In the whole Gospel of John, this was the first and only time that our Lord Jesus addressed Peter, His foremost apostle by name, but He called him “Simon, son of John” three times. In the Gospel of Matthew, after Simon answered correctly who Jesus was (“You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God!”), Jesus commended him, “I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church” (Mt.16:16,18). Then, in the Gospel of Luke, we read about Jesus addressing him first as: “Simon, Simon, Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers.” But when he boasted to Jesus: “Lord, I am prepared to go to prison and to die with you,” Jesus replied, “I tell you, Peter, before the cock crows this day, you will deny three times that you know me.” (Lk.22:31-34)

Impetuous and boastful, he was Peter, the rock. But chastised and humbled, he was back to being simple Simon, the fisherman. At the shore of the Sea of Tiberias, Jesus forgave the failings of Simon Peter who denied Him three times, by letting him acknowledge his love for His Master, but with the admonition to take care of the flock (“strengthen your brothers”). Humbled by his past cowardice, the penitent Peter was now going to be a stronger leader because he would now put his complete faith in God, and not in his own capabilities.

Without realizing it at first, St. Peter had become overconfident about his leadership and his loyalty to the Lord, which made him an easy target for Satan. In our ministry as elders in our community, we can easily fall into the same trap of moral complacency if we believe as St. Peter did that our faith is strong enough to win our spiritual battles. Many times during the noon masses that we attended, I would doze off during the homily of a certain priest. I never considered this as a sin until the time came when we had the rare occasion to go to confession. While I was examining my conscience, trying to recall any wrongdoing, lo and behold, the same priest entered the confession box. I felt humbled like St. Peter when I told that priest how sorry I was for taking my noon naps during his homilies. In his letter, St. Peter advises: “Clothe yourselves with humility in all your dealings with one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but bestows favor on the humble.’ So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.” (1Pet.5:5-6)

Remind us always, loving Father, that we are weak and vulnerable without the protection of Your love. Grant us the grace to be humble when others think highly of us, because we have nothing to be proud of; everything comes from You. Our sole desire is to be blessed by the example of Your Beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

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