When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus said to him, “What if I want him to remain until I come? What concern is it of yours? You follow me.” John 21: 21 – 23
With these readings, the Church concludes the Easter Season. Paul the Apostle, the missionary disciple, ends his life under house arrest. His proclamation of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus the Christ has led him to be a prisoner for Christ. It was Paul’s preaching that opened the Church to all peoples of good faith to be baptized in Jesus’ name. Would the Church continue after his death?
John the Evangelist ends his Gospel with this appearance to some of his disciples and one more instruction for Peter. The Acts of the Apostles concludes with Paul, knowing that he would soon be executed. This is how the Season of Easter ends.
The next day the Church celebrates Pentecost.
But today’s readings leave us with a feeling of uncertainty for the future of the followers of Jesus in John’s Gospel and for the future of the emerging Church in the Acts of the Apostles. Most of us do not do well with uncertainty, especially when it comes to envisioning what our future should be. We become like Peter, who loses focus on what is the most essential task before him, the following of Jesus, and begins to worry about how John the disciple is going to fare in the future. It is this kind of worry and concern that Jesus responds with a very startling comment, “What concern is it of yours? You follow me.” We almost hear Paul saying to us, “But I shall show you a still more excellent way” as he prepares to tell us about what real love looks like. Nothing else really matters.
If we dare to follow Jesus, then our future is assured. The future is not markets, or polls, or political parties or economic success or any of those worrisome realities. Yes, these things are included in our future, but our future is about the following of Jesus and it is about helping others follow Jesus. It is about the witness of Gospel values, values about truth, respect, integrity, the dignity of life, care for the hungry and thirsty, the care for mother earth, for the quality of life for all human beings, words that save and do not violate and destroy.
There are many people who will not follow Jesus and the Gospel, and they will try to put us to death, as they did Paul and the early church martyrs. It’s good that we pray for their conversion, but it is even better when we create a culture of Gospel values that will always overcome the evil ways that humanity has devised for us. We are not helpless in this situation. We will overcome! As Jesus said: “You follow me!”
Fr. Clemente Barrón, C.P. is a member of Mater Dolorosa Community in Sierra Madre, California.