An Encounter of Listening

The text of the Lectio Divina this morning (edit: during our annual retreat) is one of my favorites. It is the affirmation of Peter’s love for the Lord and his role as shepherd at the Lord’s questioning. I find the text beautiful because it speaks personally to me as Jesus asks, “do you love me?”

As I revisit the text, I see in a different way the restoration of Peter. After having denied Jesus three times before, he is now asked to profess his love for Him three times too. The beautiful thing about this restoration is that it happened after breakfast, a meal – which in Johannine sensibility is always about communion and relationship. This I realize, is Jesus style of approach for each person. No preaching or correction or instruction is made not until the person has encountered Jesus and entered into a dialogue of persons in Him.

This changes a lot of paradigm. Already learned by the Church, preaching follows encounter. We are not proselytizers but witnesses. We offer to people our own experience of being loved by the Lord and being in a relationship with Him, so that they too can experience and enter that communion. Biblically, the Lord’s revelation does not begin with a systematic study of God, but God simply revealing Himself. These theophanies are so striking and disarming that a person is drawn and captivated into knowing God.

Another paradigm to consider is how the Lord put Peter’s healing in the context of communion and relationship. Peter aggrieved the Lord but the Lord remained faithful to Him. He shared a meal with Peter, that breakfast, a symbol of the Eucharist, to bring to memory Jesus’ wish for being one with his disciples. When this had been done, Jesus undid all three of Peter’s denials. This beautiful reversal showed me that the undoing of sin is done in an assurance of communion. Sin wounds a relationship and forgiveness is all about reinforcing the wounded relationship.

This is specially significant to me today because of the prevailing cancel culture. Any point of disagreement is tantamount now to severing a relationship, of unfriending people, of blocking people out. Yet Jesus shows, that even in the presence of sin, our love for one another should remain as we heal our relationships. This is Christian forgiveness. The sinner still deserves our love.


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