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Vicar's Musings for the Octave of St Peter

1 July, 2012

'Peter felt hurt because he said to him the 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"' (John 21:17).

The account of Jesus' final resurrection appearance in John's gospel is a powerful one. Peter, our patron saint, reaches a place of profound reconciliation with the risen Christ. His earlier three-fold denial of Jesus would have been eating away at his soul: I could have saved him; his death is my fault; I am a coward. Cutting to the heart of this inner turmoil Jesus asks: do you love me? The guilt and pain surface: yes Lord, you know that I love you. The surgeon-like wisdom of Jesus' simple question becomes all too evident by the time he asks it the third time: do you love me? And then finally the words of reconciliation that will both heal Peter and drive him to build the foundations of a Church that today numbers more than 2 billion people: follow me.

Reconciliation is a gift that is freely given if only we are open to receiving it. In Jim Cotter's majestic adaptation of the Lord's Prayer he writes: 'in the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us.' These hurts separate us from one another and ultimately from God. It takes courage to seek reconciliation; perhaps apologising to someone who feels wronged by my actions, or asking for help in addressing the guilt that has been eating away at me for years. Our inner complexities and personal spiritual disciplines may seem small and insignificant but they are not. Seeds of reconciliation sown within the heart can bring about unimaginable change far beyond ourselves.

Thomas Merton knew this well as he prayed for the reconciliation of the Church, the Body of Christ, that he loved so deeply: 'If I can unite in myself, in my own spiritual life, the thought of the East and West of the Greek and Latin Fathers, I will create in myself a reunion of the divided church and from that unity in myself can come the exterior and visible unity of the Church' (Volume 3, A Search For Solitude, p. xvi).

May this be our prayer today for ourselves, for our church of St Peter's Eastern Hill and for the Church universal.

The Rev'd Dr Hugh Kempster

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