My Homily at All-School Mass (May 22, 2015)

After Jesus had revealed himself to his disciples and eaten breakfast with them,
he said to Simon Peter,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
He then said to Simon Peter a second time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
He said to him the third time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time,
“Do you love me?” and he said to him,
“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.

I can’t wait.

No, not for summer.  A little over one year from today — June 17, 2016 — Pixar is scheduled to release Finding Dory, the long awaited sequel of Finding Nemo. Now, a quick show of hands. How many of you have seen or have a DVD of Finding Nemo?  Let me do the quick math here: if you are a freshman, you were about 3 years old when Nemo was released. A sophomore, 4 years old. A junior, you were 5. If you’re a jubilarian here with us at Mass today… umm, it was 12 years ago.

For those of you who did not raise your hand, here’s the plot in one sentence. A little clown fish named Nemo has gone missing, and his dad, Marlin, spends the whole movie trying to find him. On this day we celebrate “mission”, the title is Marlin’s mission.

Along the way he meets a blue reef fish named Dory. A wonderful fish. Loving. Funny. Considerate. It’s just that she has ridiculous short-term memory loss.  Like, she repeatedly re-introduces herself to Marlin, as meeting him for the first time.  She can’t remember anything.  And this has consequences.

Now, everybody has short-term memory loss. You forget your iPad in the dining hall. We forget when grades are due. Come to think of it, that could be one explanation for the Gospel we just heard. Jesus is asking Peter the same question, and it appears Jesus keeps forgetting the answer.

Or… maybe not.

If you check out the original Greek of this passage for today, you find something very interesting.  In the first exchange, Jesus is asking Peter will you love me unconditionally. Agape. And Peter responds, yes, I love you… like a friend. Phileo.

Jesus asks again, will you love me unconditionally?  And Peter says – Yes, Lord, phileo. Sure, we’re good friends.  Finally, Jesus asks, do you love me as a good friend, then (phileo)?  He changes the question, even though in English it does not appear that he does.  And Peter replies, that’s it. You got it!  We’re friends.

Wait. This is the Resurrected Jesus. Don’t you think Peter should be listening carefully to His every question?  Doesn’t he remember all that Jesus did… for him and the disciples?

I mean, we all pay attention to the important questions. Next week during finals, your proctors will tell you to read the questions carefully. Answer the question being asked. You juniors will do the same with the common app next year for college.  We all do it when we fill out a job application.

But, if this is a job interview, you’d think Peter is probably not going to get hired.

And yet… he did get the job. Not only that, Jesus tells him how the job will change him in the years ahead. How much it will demand from him. How this job will save him, and so many others. Talk about faith. Peter doesn’t answer the question right, but Jesus still trusts him with building the church. Even after he lied three times, and deserted him.

Today you can visit St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome and see how Peter’s story turned out. You can go to Mass while you’re one vacation this summer and see just how far and wide that Tradition, our trusting in God, has spread.

Wow. What this means is that even in my Dory-moments, God will not abandon me. In spite of my failures, my sin, my shame, my short-term memory, God has great plans for me, as long as I don’t abandon hope, as long as I continue to try my best to serve others, as long as I remain faithful to His Church.  God loves me in spite of myself. Amazing.

What about you? Can you see beyond your imperfections, as Jesus does?  Can you own the times that you really weren’t listening, maybe to close friend at the beginning of the year who is not that close right now? Or that you let your team down with that rumor you started? Or when you really tried to do something good for an upperclassman, and they made you feel so awkward for the effort?

Can you let all of that go this morning, and look ahead, with Christ by your side? That’s what the Eucharist is all about. There are a lot of sheep to feed, and you have been chosen for the mission. You were lost, but you have been found.

You know, at the end of Finding Nemo, everyone is reunited – until Dory gets caught in one last net.

And Nemo… now found… goes back to save not only save Dory… but all the fish trapped by their indiscretion.

It’s as if he realizes just how much he has been loved… and he makes a decision… to risk his life for others… agape …the same way his dad loved him. Through the witness of someone who loved him enough that he risked his life for him.

Sort of like Peter. Like St. Paul. Like so many of the martyrs and saints of our church. Maybe someday like you.

Now, that’s a mission we can all celebrate today.

You know, I’m so glad I didn’t have to wait 13 years for our sequel.

See, our story never ends.

2 thoughts on “My Homily at All-School Mass (May 22, 2015)

  1. Jahn andreews

    I’m sure the Ignatians responded really well to the Nemo story! I enjoyed your ability to tie something relevant to them to the gospel story. Great job as always!


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