You didn’t know what to say. You were uncomfortable and nervous — and scared. So you didn’t say anything. Head down, you grunted something like “Sorry for your loss . . . You dad was a good guy” — then you quickly left. On the way home, you felt like a fool. Why did I even go? I made things worse. But later you got a text from your friend: Thanks for coming tonight. It meant a lot to me and my family.
Sometimes you actually do or say the wrong thing. You hurt someone you love deeply. You didn’t mean to, of course, but your nervousness, your fear, your obtuseness to their feelings led you to say or do something insensitive or hurtful. They said nothing, but you could see immediately the hurt and embarrassment on their face. You struggled trying to figure out what to do — but, to your surprise, they made the first move. They apologized to you for any misunderstanding and unkindness on their part — which you knew was not what happened at all. But their generosity of heart gave you the opening to apologize and preserve a treasured relationship.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus makes “space” for reconciliation and forgiveness in his relationship with Peter. Peter has spectacularly failed Jesus, but Jesus makes the first move to put what happened aside and lift up Peter’s faith. Jesus asks Peter three times — the same number of times that Peter denied him — to profess his love for him. We can hear the pain and hurt in Peter’s voice — but also the conviction in his third response: “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus is not taunting Peter but calling Peter to move beyond the past and to take on the challenges of apostleship. Through constantly seeking to make “space” for reconciliation with others, in calling forth the good that others possess despite our doubts and disappointments, in possessing the generosity of heart to forgive and seek forgiveness, we enable Easter resurrection to take place in our own families, neighbourhoods and communities.