Well, friends, it has been quite a day! Before calling it a day, I wish to share with you the homily from today’s Mass of Reception at St. James Cathedral. I am now duly installed as the Coadjutor Archbishop of Seattle. Many thanks to Archbishop Sartain, Archbishop Pierre, Fr. Ryan and all who put together a marvelous celebration.
Readings: Friday, 7th Week of Easter – Jeremiah 1:4-9, Acts 25:13-21; John 21:15-19
“Do you Love me?” Saints Peter & Paul & Blessed Mother Mary as Icons of Love
Archbishop Sartain, Bishops Elizondo and Muggenburg. It is my distinct pleasure and privilege to join you today in episcopal ministry in the Archdiocese of Seattle.
Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States. We are so pleased that you can join us for this moment. Thank you for your generous service as Pope Francis’ representative to the Church in the United States. Welcome.
Brother bishops, priests and deacons, thank you for your fraternal presence and prayerful support today.
Dear People of God of Seattle, men and women religious and seminarians. I am glad to be here, and on this day, to become a member of this portion of the family of God with you.
To my family, Pop, Bernie, Rick & Connie, Nicolette, Zach (and my sister Angie who could not join us) thank you for your love and support and your presence here today. I love you.
To all other guests who have gathered here with us – Welcome!
It is not difficult to see and hear the central moment in today’s readings. Is it not the three-fold question of Jesus to Simon Peter: “Do you love me?”
“Do you love me?” How often do we hear Jesus ask us that very question in our own lives?
But before we look into the response of Simon Peter to this question, let us explore the significance of the question itself for us. It is instructive that Jesus asks Peter if he loves him. We know full well Peter failed Jesus in his moment of greatest need. In today’s church, we should let that sink in for a moment – failure of successors to the apostles.
Jesus did not allow his disappointment in Peter to cause him to abandon Peter, nor to abandon his plans for Peter. Jesus did not let Peter’s failures stir anger and resentment within him, or if it did – Jesus moves beyond those surface emotions to the central question of love. And, in asking Peter if he loves him, Jesus clearly is not skirting the issue at hand, either.
In asking the question regarding love, Jesus is actually expressing his love for Peter. This friendly stroll and conversation is a moment of grace and healing to renew Peter for the ministry that is now his and the apostolic work that lies ahead.
My friends, Jesus’s love for Peter as intimately portrayed in the Gospel today is teaching us that we cannot allow ourselves to remain at surface level anger, disappointment and resentment about failures of leadership in the church today. Nor can we simply skirt the issue.
My brother bishops, we need Jesus’ healing and his grace to renew us in our relationship with him, in our ministry, and for the mission and work that lies ahead.
Christ’s love for us calls us into relationship with him. Christ’s love for us leads us to our deepest realization of who we are as a cherished child of God. In the face of such love, we cannot help but be mindful of our sins, as well as grateful for the unmerited gift of God’s mercy in the person of Jesus.
Peter knew this from the first moment Jesus climbed into his boat, and upon hearing him preach, said to him: “Leave me Lord, for I am a sinful man.” And, yet, Jesus looked at him with love and said: “Follow me. From now on, I will make you a fisher of men.”
Once we are convinced of the surpassing reality of Jesus’ love and the truth he brings, we cannot help but fall in love with him ourselves. This is the story of Peter and the apostles, of Paul and all who have followed Christ since the early Church. This love of Christ is what set the course of their lives. Peter who was a strong willed fisherman, and a bit brash; Paul who zealously persecuted the early Christians, both upon encountering Jesus knew they would follow and serve him the rest of their days. Each followed Jesus ‘where they would rather not have gone’ to give the ultimate witness of their love for and their faith in him.
My dear people, this is one of our highest priorities in the Church today – to help people encounter Christ – to know him on an intimate and personal level – to hear his Gospel – to come to discover in Christ God’s intimate, personal love – and to come to faith in Jesus Christ. Everything else follows that central priority. Once people (as Sts. Peter & Paul) come to know God’s love in the person of Jesus – life turns. We call this conversion.
“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
My friends, loving Christ is our sole assurance of remaining united with him. And as St. Paul loved to say: “In Christ, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13) Loving Christ is at the heart of our service of others. Loving Christ is the first step without which we cannot keep his greatest command, to love one another.
When we dedicate our lives to loving Christ, we become his missionaries of mercy in the world today. Christ is as relevant today as any date in time, as is his truth, and love and mercy. St. John teaches us that truth and love are the path to God’s grace, mercy and peace. (2 John 1: 3) And heaven and the Good Lord knows, we are in need of more of all three!
We do not merit God’s love – nor do we earn his gift of redemption. These are gifts freely and faithfully given.
Mary alone was without sin, but even her great life of holiness was firmly rooted in and dependent upon the grace of Christ’s sacrifice. This much we share with Mary. Peter and Paul learned to live according to that same, singular grace. Each of our hearts longs to do the same.
Every human person comes from God, and every human story leads to God.
Pete, Paul, and our Blessed Mother Mary, are each an icon of how to be in love with Jesus – to be in relationship with Jesus, and how to live our lives loving Jesus – not matter what.
Peter is our model of one who knew Jesus during his earthly life and ministry. Peter walked with and listened to Jesus teach, watched him heal, forgive and perform many miracles. He heard Jesus speak of the Kingdom of God, and of God whom he called ‘my Father and your Father.’ Peter gave his beautiful profession of faith at a time when many were walking away from Jesus, and when asked by Jesus if he too would leave, he responded: “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6: 68-69)
Peter’s love for Jesus and his profession of faith is needed by many in the church today.
Paul is our model of one who came to know and love Jesus through personal encounter after the resurrection. So profoundly was Paul changed after coming to know Jesus that he exclaimed: “I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
I am sure all of us have plenty of room for greater change and conversion to live more fully for Christ, and to allow Christ to live more fully in us. On this First Friday of June, may the Sacred Heart of Jesus consume a bit more space within each of our hearts! Paul, as John the Baptist knew and believed that what we need is less of self and more of Jesus.
Finally, our Blessed Mother, Mary is not only a model for all time, but is also the Mother of the Church, whose feast we will celebrate Monday, next week. God placed great confidence in Mary by entrusting to her the honor of becoming the Mother of Jesus. In a way, the Annunciation was the moment when God asked Mary: “Do you love me?” to which she responded: “I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to your word.”
Dear friends, Peter, Paul and Mary each teach us that true love of God – sincere love of Jesus can only be demonstrated in service. Love is the condition and prerequisite of service.
Please know as I begin my ministry among you – and as one of you – I pledge to love you to the best of my ability with the love of Jesus as a demonstration of my love for the Lord. May Sts. Peter and Paul and our Blessed Mother intercede for all of us, that we may live the truth in love with and for each other.
Please pray for me, and know of my prayers for all of you.