Author: Fr. Michael Byron
May 05, 2019

Yesterday at the retreat at which our young people were preparing for 1st Eucharist I invited them to figure out how old I am, by telling them how many years it’s been since I received that sacrament for the first time too.  It didn’t take them long to get it exactly right.  And then a few minutes later one young man said to me before the large group, “I’ll bet you wish you could be our age again.”  It was a disarming statement.  It could only have been made by a soul that is filled with hope and optimism.  It made me happy to hear it, and I didn’t quite know how to respond to it, because I’m not sure whether I’d wish for that or not. 

I replied that with age comes a lot of freedom and opportunity that 2nd graders don’t yet have, and that’s a wonderful thing to look forward to.  The future is wide open.  But as every older person here also knows, that’s not all that age brings.  It brings experience and lessons learned—often the hard way.  It brings lots of memories, some of which are precious and treasured; others of which are bittersweet.  It brings regret as well as gratitude, farewells along with new friendships.  And with every passing year it brings a certain narrowing of possibilities for what can happen next, because every decision for “yes” requires, at the same time, a certain “no” to other opportunities. 

It is wonderful today that as these young people come to the Eucharist for the first time they will be able to have Jesus with them alongside whatever unfolds in their years to come.  I think I might wish to be 7 or 8 years old again—but only if I could stay there.

I’m thinking about all this in the light of today’s Easter gospel of John.  It’s the last chapter (21), after the resurrection.  It’s the story of a bunch of disciples who don’t seem to know what to do next…disciples who have been chastened by their time with Jesus, and who if able to turn back the hands of time probably would have done a few things differently.  They have learned and seen many things alongside the master, but not without regret.  So they go back to where they began, fishing in Galilee before Jesus ever found them. 

And for no one would that have been more intensely felt than for Peter.  It was all the way back in chapter 1 of this gospel, when the call and experience was new and the enthusiasm was high and the future was unknown, that Jesus said to Simon, “From now on your name will be Cephas, which is translated Peter, which means “The Rock.”  His destiny was to be the anchor of faith and support and witness for everyone else.  He must have been thrilled at the possibilities of it all.  By the end of the story, however, that must have seemed like a very long time ago.  Did you notice by what name the risen Jesus addressed this man on the seashore in the gospel we just heard?  Three times he said it, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”  There is no reference to any Cephas, no Peter, no rock.  Just “Simon,” who seems to have forfeited his claim to honor because of the three denials that he so famously issued on the night of Jesus’ betrayal.  No wonder he was distressed to have to hear it; to face it, and acknowledge his failure.

But that wasn’t the end of the story.  Jesus was giving Simon Peter, in effect, a do-over, a chance to return to that time of his first call to his youth, when everything was still possible for him, before his terrible mistakes had seemed to doom him.

At the very end to the exchange, now reconciled, Jesus extended the very same invitation that he had at the very beginning.  He said, “Follow me.”  And now, made wise and stronger because of his experience, Peter said yes—this time even until death.  To say “I love you” is the first part.  Then comes the responsibility: “Feed my sheep.”

To all of you who are celebrating 1st Eucharist today, I want you to know that we are so happy for you and for your families.  We welcome you to be with the rest of us at the table of Jesus, who makes anything possible and forgives every mistake.  We are made new.  You are our hope for the future, and you make us happy just by your being here.  You are surrounded by love here.  And even though I can’t quite decide whether I want to be your age again, I am a little jealous of all the good things that lie before you in this life—and eventually forever in heaven.

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Pax Christi Catholic Community

12100 Pioneer Trail
Eden Prairie, MN 55347


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