Friday of the Seventh Week of Easter
Today we leave the Last Supper and come to the First Breakfast, after which Jesus and Peter go for a walk. Surely Peter knows what’s coming; surely seeing a charcoal fire on the beach brought back the shameful memories of the last charcoal fire near which he stood. As though reading his heart, Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him. Three times Peter is given the opportunity to undo the knots of his threefold denial of Jesus just days before, and with the undoing of these knots Jesus charges Him with a task: to feed His lambs, to shepherd and feed His sheep.
The Good Shepherd, as we have been considering all week, is preparing to return to His Father, and though He intends for us to remain here and to grow His flock, we are without a shepherd. In Matthew’s Gospel Peter is the Rock; in John’s Gospel He is the shepherd of Christ’s flock. Did He not promise at the Last Supper that He would not leave us orphans? (John 14:18) Jesus chose Peter not because he is perfect but perhaps because he, of the eleven remaining apostles, could identify most closely with the sheep he would be tending. For not only did he abandon Christ in His most desperate hour, but he publicly denied Him; yet, now, he has experienced firsthand the tender mercy of God. What surely seemed to Peter to be an unforgivable sin has been forgiven; Jesus has taught him, more in this moment than ever before, how to shepherd His flock and how to gather in even the most wayward lambs.
We are blessed to yet be guided by the shepherds of Christ: two hundred and sixty-five men since Peter have led the Church through the most incredible era of human history. Not all of them have been perfect—a few in fact have been downright dreadful—yet the Church has not gotten lost and still follows the Way the Lord has laid out for her. The successors of Peter—and the priests and deacons ordained to assist them—have for all this time continued to feed us with the Eucharist, to nourish us with the Word, to gather us as one flock under one shepherd (John 10:16), aiding us in our journey heavenward. Pray for your pastors, your shepherds, and for your fellow members of the flock: none of us makes this journey alone.
Grace: An intimate knowledge of the many blessings received, that filled with gratitude for all, I may in all things love and serve the Divine Majesty.
Reflection: In the meditation upon sin, we made reference to Dante’s vision of hell, a cold, desolate place where the fire of love has been extinguished and all lies in a spiritual torpor. This is the perfect image of the heart grown cold to the stirrings of love which God places within it. At the opposite end of Dante’s journey lies a vision that perfectly encapsulates the final meditation of the Spiritual Exercises, the Contemplation to Attain Divine Love. From the lowest reaches of the spiritual universe, Dante ascends to the heights of heaven, where he views “the love that moves the sun and the other stars.” At the heart of the universe lives the Trinitarian God, whose perfect love draws all being into an ordered symphony of praise. Dante feels himself drawn into this harmonic vision through the enflaming of his passions and desires. No one with eyes to see can sit impassively at the vision of God’s love. From the disordered state in which Dante had fallen at the beginning of the poem, he becomes progressively cleansed of his disordered affections through the grace of God and the intercession of Beatrice until finally he is able to pass through the heavens and stand in the presence of God. But notice that Dante only sees God’s depths after he has been interiorly transformed.