“Relationships are always worth restoring” (Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life, 152). Of whom do you think when you hear that statement? Last week’s homily was about healing through other people, and we’re continuing this theme of relationships… and relationships, when they are cold, hurting, or broken, are always worth restoring.
Pastor Rick Warren has six Biblical steps to reconciliation, and we can see four of them in today’s Gospel where St. Peter is reconciled with Jesus.
1) Talk to God before talking to the other person. God the Father can change our hearts or the heart of the person with whom we want to be reconciled, before we meet. Sometimes during prayer we realize that we expect too much from the people we love; we expect them to satisfy us in a way only Jesus can. So, we need to talk to the Father more about our relationships before we meet that person, so that He will bless that encounter.
2) Always take the initiative. St. Peter betrayed Jesus, but it’s Jesus Who looks for Peter: “Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, ‘Children, you have no fish, have you? … Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’ So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’” (Jn 21:4-7). Jesus, after His Resurrection, often prevented His disciples from recognizing Him, in order that their hearts would gradually open. And, isn’t it the same with us, when we try to make up with other people, that we approach them gently and slowly, so as to be respectful?
In this scene, Jesus helped them catch a huge amount of fish, which reminded them of a similar event three years earlier, as if Jesus were reminding them of a time when their relationship was stronger. This is similar to when we renew our relationships by focusing on when we were in love or getting along, and from there, we can rebuild.
3) Sympathize with their feelings. “When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.’ So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore… Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast’” (21:9-12). We’ve said before that Jesus is gentle with the weak, and strong with the strong. St. Peter broke down crying after He betrayed Jesus and looked at Him; now, he was probably still filled with shame and guilt. Jesus makes the situation easier for him by offering him food, a sign of goodwill and fellowship.
When we reconcile with others, we need to listen to their feelings, not always agreeing, because feelings are sometimes not based on reality, but acknowledging them, because feelings are real. And it’s easier when it’s done in a peaceful setting. I once reconciled with a friend over ice cream, because it was his favourite. And, in case anyone’s angry with me, I like Subway. Thanks.
4) Confess your part of the conflict. Our faith is one of truth, so, since we’re all sinful, we should confess any sin on our part, even if it’s only one percent.
5) Attack the problem, not the person. “When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ He said to him the third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter felt hurt because he said to him the 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’” (21:15-17). Jesus focuses on St. Peter’s lack of love—that’s why Peter failed and that was the problem, and that’s what means the most to Jesus: How much we love Him.
6) Cooperate as much as possible. “Peace always has a price tag. Sometimes it costs our pride; it often costs our self-centeredness” (Warren, 157). Jesus has no pride, but still lowers Himself to St. Peter’s level. Three years ago, we pointed out that, in the passage we just read, the original Greek has two words for love. So, Jesus actually says…
1. ‘Simon son of John, do you agapas me?’ meaning: Do you love Me sacrificially, even when you get nothing in return? ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I philo you,’ meaning, You know I love you only as a friend.
2. ‘Simon son of John, do you agapas me?’ Do you love Me sacrificially? ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I philo you.’ Lord, You know I’m only capable of loving You as a friend.
3. ‘Simon son of John, do you phileis me?’ Here, Jesus lowers Himself to Peter’s level. In other words, ‘Alright, Simon, you can’t love me sacrificially, but I will accept your love of friendship.’ ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I philo you.’ That’s all the love I have right now.
Sometimes we have to adjust ourselves to the weaknesses of people, while, at the same time, calling them to perfection. Right after this, Jesus says, “Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.’ (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God)” (21:18-19). Jesus accepts our poor human love, but He still calls us to be ready to die for Him, to be saints.
Here’s a three-minute video from Alpha about how the Holy Spirit guides us in reconciliation (Please watch from 3:40-6:59).
We have to listen to Jesus’ voice. We’re His followers and it’s our mission to bring His reconciliation to everyone. Every time we run Alpha, we’re on the lookout to share Jesus’ message with everyone, because everyone needs Him in their lives if they’re going to restore relationships: It’s only Jesus Who can heal.
Like last December, we have our 11:02 Prayer cards in the pews, on which we write down the names of those we’d love to come to know Jesus. Could you pull these cards out, please? Shaila Visser, the head of Alpha Canada, came to our parish last month and specified that we often write down whom we want to invite to Alpha, but instead, we should ask the Holy Spirit whom He wants to invite. After the homily, we’ll take a minute to pray and ask the Spirit to speak to our hearts.
Paul Cowley’s story of how he was reconciled with his father gives us hope—that’s what Jesus wants in our lives. Relationships are always worth restoring.