The Power of Forgiveness and Love
The holiday and festivities may have passed; however, the resurrection story continues in our hearts and minds. The Last Supper was the final meal Jesus shared with his closest disciples, and it was full of promise and hope. After the death of Jesus, the apostles descended into despair, spending time afraid and hiding in a locked room together until the Holy Spirit descended and filled them with renewed hope and courage. Jesus appeared to them in that room, but they were still not ready to believe.
Already he has appeared to them twice, but their hearts do not recognise him. They continue travelling to the north shore of the Sea of Galilee, hoping to meet with Jesus. Even when “Jesus stood on this shore, the disciples did not know it was him.” Their faith is not ready for this moment of reconnection with Jesus, and they remain fearful, confused, and agitated. They are disappointed.
To escape the disappointment and memories, they go from their hearts to their minds, and they head for what they know best, catching fish. We often retreat to the familiar when we cannot understand a change. However, while this space offers some consolation, it is generally short-lived as God continually stirs our hearts to want more. The ‘more’ is that longing for a connection. Peter wanted and sought this connection with Jesus when he jumped into the water from the boat to swim to the shore.
This action of diving into deep water creates a moment from one world to another to remerge in a different space of renewal. Karl Rahner suggests that these moments of spiritual connection with God leave us “wanting never more to return, but to lose ourselves completely in you, since by your love you are the inmost centre of my heart, closer to me than I am to myself.”
On their return at daybreak from the failed fishing trip, a voice calls out, “Children you have no fish, have you?” He encouraged them to persevere, and by re-casting their nets they caught a massive abundance of fish. Jesus asks them, despite their exhaustion and lack of faith, to step beyond themselves and persevere. He is constantly gently stirring the waters of their souls and hearts to encourage recognition of him. Jesus has prepared a charcoal fire to cook bread and fish for the disciples. He offers breakfast to everyone as an act of love.
Only with Peter has a one-to-one conversation to help him recognise that he still loves him, despite his earlier three denials of association with Jesus. Finally, Jesus asks him three times, “do you love me?” Peter answered back three times, “Lord you know I love you.” Jesus is moving Peter from denial to forgiveness and is replacing his spirit of confusion and fragile faith through the power of God’s presence.
We have all had those Peter moments in our lives when we deny something out of fear. However, offering or receiving forgiveness is always an act of immense generosity and best given sooner rather than later. In my past life as a nurse, I had the immense honour of occasionally accompanying a person as they received the Last Rites of the Catholic Church from a priest. I always found comfort listening to the final prayer; “God loves you and God accepts you. Your sins are forgiven; you belong to God; You are now with God.”
Like Peter, despite our failings and shortcomings, we must never forget that we are always unconditionally accepted and loved by God as we belong to him. God always knows our needs and provides them – for we are His creation.
Sr Susie O’Rawe OP