Tuesday, April 10, 2012

John 21

    The last chapter of the Gospel according to John. This chapter is sort of an epilogue (remember John began in chapter 1 with a prologue [In the beginning was the Word . . .]).
    The final chapter is about reconciling Peter. Remember on Holy Thursday evening, Peter denied his relationship with Jesus three times. When he realizes that Jesus knew his heart even better than he did, he goes off into the night and weeps bitterly. By the shore of the Sea of Galilee, Peter and his friends are fishing and the resurrected Jesus appears to them and serves them grilled bread and fish on the shore. Jesus then takes Peter aside and asks him the same big question three times: Simon, Son of John, do you love me? Three times Peter answers, Lord you know I love you. The problem here is that the Greek nuance is lost in translation. There are three Greek words for love: Eros, Philios and Agape. Eros is love in all its physical forms (where the word erotic comes from) and would include sexuality as well as the love of a good walk or a peanut butter sandwich. Philios is love in its relational form -- friendship. It is where Philadelphia gets its name (phileo adelphius) city of fraternal/brotherly love. Agape' is a rare word outside the Bible but is love that is a gift. It was translated to Caritas in the Latin and later Charity by the early English translators. It is love that gives: God's love for the world is always Agape'.
     So here's the thing. Jesus asks Simon do you Agape' me? Peter responds: Lord you know I am your friend (philios). Jesus asks a second time: Simon do you Agape' me? Peter responds: Lord you know I am your friend (philios). Jesus asks a third time Simon are you my friend? (Philios). At which Peter gets perturbed and says "Lord, you know everything, you know I am your friend (Philios)." Each of the confessions (one question for each denial) is followed by a task: feed my little ones (lambs); feed my sheep and feed my sheep. So it is for us, the love we have for Jesus is not seen in our words but in our actions and choices: if we love Jesus we will care for the powerless, and care for the community!

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