Sunday, April 14, 2013

On Today's Readings

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus 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.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” Jesus said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that Jesus 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.”

Whenever I read this, I'm reminded of something that St. John Chrysostom wrote, which is of no small value in our discussions with those who read these passages in a light that doesn't reflect the correct understanding of papal primacy:

This spoke He, signifying by what death he should glorify God. He said not, Should die, but, Should glorify God, that you may learn, that to suffer for Christ, is glory and honor to the sufferer.

And when He had spoken this, He says, Follow Me.

Here again He alludes to his tender carefulness, and to his being very closely attached to Himself. And if any should say, How then did James receive the chair at Jerusalem? I would make this reply, that He appointed Peter teacher, not of the chair, but of the world.

This is good stuff, especially considering that James's role at the Council of Jerusalem is often used as some kind of evidence to degrade Peter's authority.

On the other side of the comment here is the fact that Peter finds out he's going to die under less than peaceful circumstances.

But, as Chrysostom makes clear, it wasn't the dying that was important. It was giving glory to God. Consider this in light of the First Reading today. The Apostles were scourged, yet they went away rejoicing. 

If you aren't sure what scourging involved, let's check the account given in the Martyrdom of St. Polycarp:

All the martyrdoms, then, were blessed and noble which took place according to the will of God. For it becomes us who profess greater piety than others, to ascribe the authority over all things to God. And truly, who can fail to admire their nobleness of mind, and their patience, with that love towards their Lord which they displayed?— who, when they were so torn with scourges, that the frame of their bodies, even to the very inward veins and arteries, was laid open, still patiently endured, while even those that stood by pitied and bewailed them.

We have no reason to think that the Sanhedrin would have any sort of mercy on the Apostles in this situation. The point is that scourging was painful as hell. Yet the Apostles rejoiced.

We should all think about this when the Paula Whites, Joyce Meyers, Mike Murdocks, Joel Osteens, etc. of the world downplay the role of suffering. How many of their sermons cast suffering as (a) the fault of the one suffering and (b) something that is never contemplated by God? Suffering is something to be avoided in their universe. It has no value. It has no connection whatsoever with holiness.

Yet the Apostles rejoiced.

As should we.

If so ye continue in the faith, grounded and settled, and immoveable from the hope of the gospel which you have heard, which is preached in all the creation that is under heaven, whereof I Paul am made a minister. Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for his body, which is the church...

Colossians 1:23-24

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