Aug. 21: ST. PIUS X GOSPEL COMMENTARY: “DO YOU LOVE ME?…LORD YOU KNOW ALL THINGS YOU KNOW THAT I LOVE YOU” (Jn 21:15-19).
Born near Venice to a very humble family, St. Pius X (1835-1914) distinguished himself for his continuous service to the Church and to all souls – first as priest, later as bishop and Patriarch Archbishop of Venice, and finally as the Roman Pontiff. He strongly defended the purity of Catholic doctrine against modern heresies. He instilled dignity to sacred liturgy and extended the practice of frequent communion.
Gospel of Aug. 21, Memorial of St. Pius X
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.”
GOSPEL COMMENTARY from the Navarre Bible, Commentary to the Gospel of St. John (with permission)
15-17: THE PRIMACY OF PETER: FEED MY LAMBS, FEED MY SHEEP.
- Jesus Christ had promised Peter that he would be the primate of the Church (cf. Mt 16:16-19 and note on same). Despite his three denials during our Lord’s Passion, Christ now confers on him the primacy he promised.
- “Jesus questions Peter three times, as if to give him a triple chance to atone for his triple denial. Peter has learned his lesson from the bitter experience of his wretchedness. Aware of his weakness, he is deeply convinced that rash claims are pointless. Instead he puts everything in Christ’s hands. ‘Lord, you know well that I love you’” (J. Escrivá, Friends of God, 267).
- The primacy was given to Peter directly and immediately. So the Church has always understood — and so Vatican I defined: “We therefore teach and declare that, according to the testimony of the Gospel, the primacy of jurisdiction over the universal Church of God was immediately and directly promised and given to Blessed Peter the Apostle by Christ our Lord. . . . And it was upon Simon Peter alone that Jesus after his Resurrection bestowed the jurisdiction of chief pastor and ruler over all his fold in the words: ‘Feed my lambs; feed my sheep” (Pastor aeternus, chap. I).
- The primacy is a grace conferred on Peter and his successors, the Popes; it is one of the basic elements in the Church, designed to guard and protect its unity:
- “In order that the episcopate also might be one and undivided, and that… the multitude of the faithful might be kept secure in the oneness of faith and communion, he set Blessed Peter over the rest of the Apostles, and fixed in him the abiding principle of this twofold unity, and its visible foundation” (Pastor aeternus, Dz-Sch 3051; cf. Vatican II, Lumen gentium, 18).
- Therefore, the primacy of Peter is perpetuated in each of his successors: this is something which Christ disposed; it is not based on human legislation or custom.
- By virtue of the primacy, Peter, and each of his successors, is the shepherd of the whole Church and vicar of Christ on earth, because he exercises vicariously Christ’s own authority. Love for the Pope, whom St Catherine of Siena used to call “the sweet Christ on earth”, should express itself in prayer, sacrifice and obedience.
18-19: FOLLOW ME.
- According to Tradition, St Peter followed his Master to the point of dying by crucifixion, head downwards,
- “Peter and Paul suffered martyrdom in Rome during Nero’s persecution of Christians, which took place between the years 64 and 68. St Clement, the successor of the same Peter in the see of the Church of Rome, recalls this when, writing to the Corinthians, he puts before them ‘the generous example of these two athletes’: ‘due to jealousy and envy, those who were the principal and holiest columns suffered persecution and fought the fight unto death” (Paul VI, Petrum et Paulum).
- “Follow me!”: these words would have reminded the Apostle of the first call he received (cf. Mt 4:19) and of the fact that Christ requires of his disciples complete self-surrender: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up the Cross daily and follow me” (Lk 9:23).
- St Peter himself, in one of his letters, also testifies to the Cross being something all Christians must carry: “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (1 Pet 2:21).
VIDEO COMMENTARY ON TODAY’S GOSPEL
TOPIC: WHEN DID YOU LAST EXPRESS YOUR LOVE TO THOSE AROUND YOU?
Jesus gently asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?”
We are asked to reflect deeply on this repeated questioning because both of them knew that Peter was unable to even profess knowing Jesus, denying Him three times out of fear and confusion. Remember the cock crowing incident with Peter after Christ’s passion? Today’s reflection focuses on two things:
First, do we express our love enough, and perhaps, more than less, to those around us – our wives, our children our parents, our siblings, our friends? Between a man and a woman, perhaps, it is the woman who asks the man that question not just three times but many times. It is, perhaps, because expressions of love may not be enough, or, perhaps, such expressions may be waning, from the woman’s viewpoint, that out of insecurity, she asks the man of her life that question repeatedly. Indeed, that was what Paul said to the Ephesians, speaking on behalf of Jesus, for husbands to love their wives. It was a statement made to men only because, on one hand, women are already innately loving and need not be reminded. On the other, generally, men can become insensitive and forgetful in expressing their love.
Husbands, there are many ways to express our love for our wives – and for that matter – our children and, definitely, those around us. It need not just be roses and chocolates, but acts of kindness that will endear us to them.
Second, we are also asked by Jesus that question – do you love me, maybe not just three times, but many times. And if we say we do, He asks us to follow Him through the difficult and arduous road of life. For example, if we truly love Him, can we do what He does to us everytime we sin and ask for forgiveness? Can we also show mercy and compassion to those who have hurt us seventy times seven times?
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