My Dear Sisters and Brothers! I am amazed that Peter didn’t sink on the way to the shore as his heart was heavy after his betrayal of the Lord. The only reason I can find for him to stay afloat is that his memory of the three years he had with Christ firmly convinced him of Jesus’ readiness to forgive. Let us leave the swimming Pope in his full suit alone for a few moments to listen to another story. Two men were having a conversation. One said: “Every time I have a blue with my wife she gets historical.” His mate corrected him: “I think you wanted to say hysterical.” “No - the married man answered - When I argue with my wife she gets historical. She remembers all the mistakes I have ever made.” Do you think that it is a made up story? ….
Let’s go back to our excited Pope who is reaching the seashore by now. What does he find there? There is a charcoal fire. The last time Peter saw a charcoal fire was when he betrayed Jesus. Looks like Jesus gets historical here. Then they have an unusual conversation. Basically Jesus asks Peter the same question three times. The last time Peter was asked the same question three times the question was: “Are you one of Jesus’ disciples?” Looks like Jesus gets historical again. However Jesus’ getting historical is different from the conversation of that man and his wife. There is not anger here. There is no bitterness. There is no blaming involved. On the contrary the charcoal fire becomes an expression of Jesus’ care for Peter. The Lord of heaven and earth, who was betrayed by his Vicar to be, grills some healthy fish for the feeble man. The three questions are about love Jesus still sees in Peter, even if Peter proved it otherwise a few days earlier. What is happening here? What is it all about?
My Dear fellow believers! It is about memory. It is about healing Peter’s memory. Our memory is a funny thing. It can lend us wings by recalling love, support, appreciation and pride of those we love. It can also drag us down by bringing up our misconduct, sins, failures and the hurt we inflicted on others or what others did to us. What Jesus does in the Gospel for this Sunday is he faces Peter with the context of the first Pope’s failures. However Jesus doesn’t leave our hero Supreme Pontiff there alone to contemplate those failings. In a merciful way he reconciles Peter with the painful and shameful past. Jesus provides Peter with divine forgiveness which will free the man to go forward with a joyful and grateful heart.
Have you ever thought why you need to name your sins when you go to the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation? It is not to dwell on your sins but to have a Peter’s moment of memory healing. When you name your sins it is like that charcoal fire. It is like those three questions. You bring up your past tarnished by shame and pain into the presence of our Risen Lord. What is the outcome? A joyful and grateful heart.
Let me finish with the best homily I have ever heard on Reconciliation. It was in Sydney. We had first Reconciliation for the children from the parish. The following morning I was walking to celebrate a Mass when I saw a second grade student walking with his mum to school. He was jumping up and down with a big smile on his little face. I said to him: “Looks like someone is having a good day today.” His answer was: “Of course Father. Jesus forgave me all my sins last night.”