Acts 28:16-20, 30-31; Psalm 11; John 21:20-25
The Gospel today is the end of John’s version of the Gospel. It continues from yesterday, where Jesus tells Peter the kind of death he will suffer and calls Peter to Follow me. As Peter followed Jesus, Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them. John describes this disciple as the one who had reclined next to Jesus at the supper and had said “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” There is a rather symbolic scene here. The disciples who Jesus loved followed Peter, who was following Jesus. This is the disciple who sat beside Jesus and asked Jesus who was to betray him. Our love for the Lord should conform to how Peter follows Jesus. While love for Jesus draws us close to him, we are called to follow Jesus through Peter.
Peter, in turn is to look after those who follow Jesus through him. Which is why when he saw this disciple, he asked Jesus Lord, what about him? Peter was concerned about the one who loved Jesus. In reply, Jesus said If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? Follow me! Jesus shows us, to shepherd others, we should also look after our discipleship to him. I cannot lead others if I do not follow Jesus. It is not our concern how they turn out. We cannot let their opinions affect our discipleship of Jesus. Our objective is to follow him. We are also not to impose our will on those we shepherd. We are not their Lord. We cannot force them to be someone the Lord did not call them to be. We lead them to Jesus. What they are to be, what God has planned for them, is between them and Jesus. We lead them to the right path, who is Jesus and as the Psalm today says the just will gaze on your face, O Lord. We hope in leading people to Jesus, they will see Jesus face to face. This is fidelity to the Truth of Jesus.
The First Reading skips several versions which has Paul speak to the leaders of the Jews. Paul expounded, testifying the kingdom of God and persuading them concerning Jesus, out of the law of Moses and the prophets, from morning until evening. Yet, despite this, some believed and some did not. Paul did not force them to believe. Instead, he left them to their decision. When we lead others to Christ, we are not to make them our clones. They are not to worship as we do, think as we do, or speak as we do, because they are not us! We are not to form them into our own image. Instead, we need to allow God to move in their hearts and let them respond in their own way to the movement of the Holy Spirit. Yes, God can change our hearts, but this change depends on how we respond to him.
If Jesus wants others to live until he comes, what is that to us? Our mission is to follow Jesus.
Some of you may have relatives who have walked away from the faith. And it is normal to blame yourself for this, wondering if you could have done anything more to prevent this. The fact is, we have no control over how people make decisions. All we can do is pray and hope, they will change and will come back to the Lord and Scripture tells us, those who trust in the Lord will never be put to shame. There is always hope in the mercy of God. How he works, we do not know. But we know God desires the salvation of our loved ones more than we do.
Having said this, we too should make our decision in following the Lord. Paul told the Jewish leaders of Rome, Be it known therefore to you that this salvation of God is sent to the Gentiles: and they will hear it. We also need to make a choice when we follow Jesus. Do I accept all he teaches or do I have my own ideas that prevent me from following him completely? God will not force us to believe. God will not save us if we will not allow him. In the end, this is OUR choice: Do I want a life of union with God? There is one thing to do: Follow him.
Lord, here is am. You have called me to follow you. There are many things that prevent me from doing so. Yet Lord, you can overcome them if I allow you. Open my heart to you so I may truly follow you. Send me your Holy Spirit so I can know what you reveal to me, and respond to you in truth. Come Holy Spirit, lead me to Jesus. Help me follow him.