Pope Francis talked about the relationship between Peter and Jesus on Friday morning mass. He said that the problem is not that we are sinners, but that we do not allow ourselves to be transformed by the encounter with Christ in love.
At the center of the homily was the day's Gospel reading, in which the Risen Jesus thrice asks Peter if Peter loves Him. “It is,” said Pope Francis, “a dialogue of love between the Lord and his disciple,” one that retraces the whole history of Peter's meetings with Jesus, from Peter's first calling and invitation to follow the Lord, to his receiving the name of Cephas – the Rock – and with the name, his peculiar mission, “which,” said Pope Francis, “was there, even if Peter understood nothing of it [at the time].” Then, when Peter recognized Jesus as the Christ and went on to reject the way of the Cross, and Jesus said to him, “Get away, Satan!” and “Peter accepted this humiliation.” Peter often “believed himself to be a good fellow,” was “fiery” in the Garden of Gethsemane, and “took the sword” to defend Jesus, but then denied him three times – and when Jesus looked on him with that look, “so beautiful [it was],” said the Pope, that Peter weeps. “Jesus in these meetings is maturing Peter's soul, Peter's heart,” helping Peter to grow in love. So Peter, when he heard Jesus three times ask him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” was ashamed, because he remembered the time when, three times, he said he did not know the Lord:
“Peter was saddened that, for a third time, Jesus asked him, “Do you love me?” This pain, this shame – a great man, this Peter – [and] a sinner, a sinner. The Lord makes him feel that he is a sinner – makes us all feel that we are sinners. The problem is not that we are sinners: the problem is not repenting of sin, not being ashamed of what we have done. That's the problem. And Peter has this shame, this humility, no? The sin, the sin of Peter, is a fact that, with a heart as great as the heart Peter had, brings him to a new encounter with Jesus: to the joy of forgiveness.”
The Lord did not abandon his promise, when said, “You are rock.” In the episode recounted in Friday's Gospel, we saw Jesus saying, “Feed my sheep,” and the Lord “[gave] over His flock to a sinner.”:
The Holy Father stressed that Peter is great, not because he is good, but because he has a nobility of heart, which brings him to tears, leads him to this pain, this shame - and also to take up his work of shepherding the flock”:
“Let us ask the Lord, today, that this example of the life of a man who continually meets with the Lord, and whom the Lord purifies, makes more mature through these meetings, might help us to us to move forward, seeking the Lord and meeting Him, allowing us [really] to encounter Him. More than this, it is important that we let ourselves encounter the Lord: He always seeks us, He is always near us. Many times, though, we look the other way because we do not want to talk with the Lord or allow ourselves to encounter the Lord. Meeting the Lord [is important], but more importantly, let us be met by the Lord: this is a grace. This is the grace that Peter teaches us. We ask this grace today. So be it.”
Pope Francis celebrates Friday morning Mass