Obedience, Commitment and Faithfulness to the Lord
This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a member of the Congregation Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers, Province of Nigeria South East. He is currently the parochial vicar of Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church Woliwo Onitsha, Anambra State, Nigeria. For more details contact him on:firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or +23408063767512
(Readings: 1st: Acts 5, 27-32; Ps: 29, 2. 4-4. 11-13; 2nd: Rev 5,11-14; Gos: Jn 2, 1-19)
Both the first (Act 5, 12-16) and the second (Rev 1, 9ff) readings of today are a firm and resolute testimony by both mortals (the followers of Jesus) and immortals (the angels and saints) that all power, glory and honour are due and belongs to Jesus the worthy Lamb of God. The God we serve is an awesome God and so does mighty things. Our situations, what we think, or feel about him does not diminish this greatness. So he delights in the obedience and praises of his people. Obedience to God manifests itself in faithfulness to our vocations. It also manifests itself through the kind of witness we bear for him. Hence, we can share in the glory of God only if we are docile to the spirit of God, and if we are obedient to His will rather than to men’s.
In today’s gospel (John 20, 19-31), we find Jesus asking Peter for three times: “do you love me”? This reminds me of what usually happens in my cultural setting where an elderly person calls a younger person (during the course of an advice) thrice by his/her real name, and still poses this question to the younger person: “how many times did I call you”? Then, the younger person’s response will definitely be, thrice! This triple and intense calling of name immediately sends a signal that what follows is a serious advice or warning. In a similar way, the emphasis Christ lays in his question to Peter shows how serious the work he was being called to do is. This seriousness is further demonstrated by the fact that rather than call him “Peter”, Jesus calls and asks him: “Simon son of John do you love me” This is a way of indicating that for Peter to succeed, he needs serious commitment to Jesus and his call in the form of agape-bond. In the Greek text, one finds that during the first two calls, Jesus used the word Agapas me (v15-16), whereas in the last he used the word Fileis me (v17). There is no agreement among biblical scholars as to what difference these words make. However, what is important here is that Christ demands from Peter, as well as from us, a very strong commitment and obedience to his call and mission. It is a way of letting us know that: “to whom much is given, much is expected.”
Jesus’ triple question could be due to the fact that Peter and some of his colleagues in spite of having heard and seen that He has risen from the dead, displayed some kind of laxity and unbelief by returning to their old ways / profession. Worst still, Peter who was supposed to strengthen others was the initiator of this idea. So, what Jesus appears to be saying to him as he says to us too is: You are to show good examples to your brethrens. Rather than leading them astray, you are to take good care of them, show them the right way and protect them from backsliding! Although one could excuse them by saying they were trying to keep themselves busy. But, busy doing what? Busy in whose work or vocation?
The lesson we must learn from this is that, if we return to our old ways or become busy in the wrong place or job we may end up achieving nothing and being frustrated as these disciples of Jesus were in spite of their experience. Often times, we go out of our way to change our call or vocation, or even do our will rather than the will of God for us because, we are bored and have waited for too long for God to act. So we shift our base to a supposedly “more interesting vocation or place”. Unfortunately, instead of progressing we find ourselves stagnated and unprogressive. The Psalmist tells us: “be still and know that I am God” (Ps.46, 10).
Peace be with you.