HOMILY EASTER WEEK 03 06
Growing our Relationship with Jesus
((Acts 9:31-42; Ps 116; Jn 6:53-69)
What do you think was the most pivotal moment of Peter’s life with Jesus? What would ours be?
St. Peter is strikingly central to both readings today, inviting us to grow in our relationship with Jesus as he did.
There were many “God moments” in Peter’s life after he met Jesus. Perhaps it was the great catch of fish after Jesus told him to fish on the other side of the boat. Maybe it was when Jesus invited him to walk on the water and rescued him from drowning. Maybe it was Peter’s act of faith at Caesarea Philippi (“You are the Christ, the Son of God), or in today’s passage (“Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”) Or maybe it was when he went right into the empty tomb. My guess is it was when Jesus forgave him by the Lake of Tiberias for the three times he denied him (“Peter, do you love me, do you love me, do you love me?).
Actually, Peter’s life is a story not of one pivotal moment; it’s a tale of a growing relationship with Jesus. Every encounter with Jesus deepened their relationship. Peter asked questions, listened to every word Jesus spoke, and grew in understanding. He watched the way Jesus related to the people around him, and it increased his faith incrementally. Even when Jesus ascended to heaven their relationship didn’t end. Peter kept on praying, and Jesus sent him the promised Holy Spirit.
Clearly, Peter was not just pursuing pious rules or trying to get on Jesus’ good side. He wanted to know Jesus more. Like a parent and child or best friends, their relationship developed and deepened. As Peter learned more about Jesus, he trusted him more. As Jesus saw Peter persevere, he revealed more of himself and entrusted more of his work to this brusque fisherman. Perhaps the pinnacle of Peter’s faith is precisely his acceptance of Jesus’ teaching on the Eucharist, on his real presence in bread and wine, his flesh and blood that gives us eternal life. While many of the other disciples found this teaching too difficult to believe and accept, and stopped following him, Peter spoke up for the apostles, believed in who Jesus was and his words, and stayed faithful to him.
Then, when Jesus poured out his Holy Spirit on him, Peter was able to move forward in faith, determined to build the kingdom of God. In the first reading today from Acts, we see that faith in Jesus and the presence of his Spirit in Peter’s life in full bloom. In the name of Jesus Christ, he heals Aeneas who had been bedridden and paralyzed for eight years. Then in Joppa, he raised a disciple Tabitha to life. Peter had become “another Christ” – teaching and healing and raising the dead just as Jesus did!
St Peter is a model for us. Our life is also not so much a matter of pivotal moments, but a gradual growing in our intimate relationship with Jesus, and an ever-deepening faith in his power to work in our lives as well, through his forgiveness and healing. Each day, with or without pivotal moments, we deepen our relationship by pursuing him who has the words of eternal life.
One of the best ways we can do that is to devote a portion of each day to contemplative prayer, especially Lectio Divina – reading a passage of God’s word; meditating on that passage, asking ourselves what is God saying to us through that word; having an intimate conversation with God about that word, and most important, spending time in silence just soaking up God’s love through that word.
Celebrating the Eucharist is another way to grow our relationship with Jesus, who gives himself to us as Word and sacrament in a very intimate way as his body and blood.
May our celebration deepen our faith in him, and empower us to continue to grow our intimate relationship with him, following in the steps of St. Peter.