By Father Eugene Hemrick | Catholic News Service
"For it is not an enemy that reviled me – that I could bear – not a foe who viewed me with contempt, from that I could hide. But it was you, my other self, my comrade and friend, you whose company I enjoyed at whose side I walked in the house of God."
Peter's triple denial of Christ reminds us of the cutting words of Psalm 55 and the difficulty of reconciling Peter's dishonorable act.
Christ circumvents this difficulty in asking Peter, "Do you love me?" three times. He doesn't rebuke or break with Peter. Rather he opens his heart, reunites with him and lets life begin anew.
As inspiring is this reconciliation, St. John Paul II in his apostolic exhortation on reconciliation and penance addresses the main stumbling blocks to reconciliation.
First, he points to the parable of the prodigal son and a merciful father who welcomes back his son, giving us an example of reconciliation par excellence. Then St. John Paul II turns our attention to the difficulty of reconciliation that is exemplified in the prodigal son's brother.
"To the extent that this brother, too sure of himself and his own good qualities, jealous and haughty, full of bitterness and anger, is not converted and is not reconciled and is not reconciled with his father and brother, the banquet is not yet fully the celebration of reunion and rediscovery."
Turning his attention to our human condition, St. John Paul II states, "Man – every human being – is also this elder brother. Selfishness makes him jealous, hardens his heart, blinds him and shuts him off from other people and from God." These offshoots of hardness of heart are the foremost culprits of estrangement and unforgiveness.
How might we guard against this?
St. John Paul II reminds us failing to forgive is a "suicidal act" because it destroys our "internal balance" and the fabric of our relationship with others and the world. The harmony of life's order is ruptured, allowing chaos to reign.
Today we are not only experiencing greater disagreement but vicious disagreement that is far outweighing reconciliation. Where do we start to rectify this?
Christ's reunion with his close friend Peter reminds us to start at home, reconciling with family members, relatives, co-workers and neighbors.