18 May, Friday – Love And Lead

May 18 – Memorial for St. John I, Pope and Martyr

John (d. 526) was a priest in Rome, and became the 53rd pope in 523. Italy’s ruler then, Theodoric the Goth, was an Arian. For a while he left the Catholics alone, but in later life he became suspicious of everyone, imagining conspiracies and attempts to seize his throne. He tried to involve Pope John in his political machinations. John led a delegation to Constantinople to negotiate with Emperor Justin I; he was the first pope to travel to Constantinople, and while there crowned Justin. The mission was successful, but Theodoric though John and Justin I had plotted against him. While returning to Rome, John was kidnapped and imprisoned by Theodoric’s soldiers. He died of thirst and starvation while in custody in Ravenna, Italy.

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Acts 25:13-21

King Agrippa and Bernice arrived in Caesarea and paid their respects to Festus. Their visit lasted several days, and Festus put Paul’s case before the king. ‘There is a man here’ he said ‘whom Felix left behind in custody, and while I was in Jerusalem the chief priests and elders of the Jews laid information against him, demanding his condemnation. But I told them that Romans are not in the habit of surrendering any man, until the accused confronts his accusers and is given an opportunity to defend himself against the charge. So they came here with me, and I wasted no time but took my seat on the tribunal the very next day and had the man brought in. When confronted with him, his accusers did not charge him with any of the crimes I had expected; but they had some argument or other with him about their own religion and about a dead man called Jesus whom Paul alleged to be alive. Not feeling qualified to deal with questions of this sort, I asked him if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem to be tried there on this issue. But Paul put in an appeal for his case to be reserved for the judgement of the august emperor, so I ordered him to be remanded until I could send him to Caesar.’

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John 21:15-19

After Jesus had shown himself to his disciples and eaten with them, he said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others do?’ He answered, ‘Yes Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He replied, ‘Yes, Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Look after my sheep.’ Then he said to him a third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was upset that he asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ and said, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.

‘I tell you most solemnly,
when you were young
you put on your own belt
and walked where you liked;
but when you grow old
you will stretch out your hands,
and somebody else will put a belt around you,
and take you where you would not rather go.’

In these words he indicated the kind of death by which Peter would give glory to God. After this he said, ‘Follow me.’

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‘Follow me.’

What motivates us in doing anything? As I think about it more, I realise that I do things because of another thing. I do not just do things because I want to. I do things because I think it is correct or it is the right thing to do. It is correct based on something that has been formulated by others or by society. I am just merely following what must be followed.

In our Gospel today, we notice that it is three times that Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” We can recall that during Christ’s Passion, Peter denied Jesus three times. These scenarios clearly show that though we may turn our back from our Lord more than once, He is always waiting for our return. We sin, yet we are forgiven.

The phrases, ‘Feed my lambs’, ‘Look after my sheep’, and ‘Feed my sheep’ remind us that it is Peter whom Jesus entrusted to lead us. He was the one appointed to guide our nourishment and to live in accordance to God’s will. When Jesus first asked Peter if he loved him before giving him instructions, it implied that Peter’s obedience must be out of love. It is for the love of God that he will obey to feed the lambs, to look after the sheep, and to feed the sheep. In the same way, it is for the love of God that we have our priests, bishops, and the pope.

Saying that we love God is quite easy. But do our actions show that we love our Lord? Do we do things out of love? I myself struggle everyday to do things out of love for God. But with God’s grace, we can.

We are given the gift of free will. As Jesus said, “I tell you most solemnly, when you were young you put on your own belt and walked where you liked”. When we are still young and able, we can do whatever we want and go wherever we want. It is up to us how we are going to use this freedom. However, we must remember that our end time will come. And we cannot do anything about it. It is a great reminder that while we still can, we should use our free will to follow the will of God.

We are nearing the end of Easter. But let this be not the end of feeling alive. As we continue in our daily life, let us strive harder to do things out of love.

(Today’s Oxygen by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Father God, we are deeply sorry for all our sins. Please grant us the grace to desire to follow you always.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father God, for giving us chances to renew our self, to be a better person.

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