There are moments in life when, in one quick instant, everything makes sense. We see this often as a technique in storytelling or movies, when a character suddenly understands his/her story. There is a flashback of events in the story, and details previously hidden become obvious and shed light on the entire story.
Some call this enlightenment or illumination; to others this is a eureka moment; and to the more religious or philosophical, an epiphany. Call it by any name, but I think it is an experience many have gone through.
This is the context in which we will reflect on today’s Gospel, the final Resurrection appearance in John, the Triple Question of Love that the Risen Lord poses to Peter. It is Peter’s moment of epiphany.
You will notice that the structure, including the details, run parallel to the Call of Peter narrative in Luke. Scholars say that what came first was the Resurrection narrative, which inspired the Call narrative. This is a clear case of the past making sense because of a present inspiration.
What is your moment of inspiration, when all of a sudden everything makes sense? Let us reflect on Peter’s moment of inspiration—and, hopefully, discover ours in the process.
“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” This was Peter’s response to the third time the question of love was posed by Christ. It was a confession of failure, yet this was a moment that required courage and freedom to make it a moment of inspiration.
In her book, “Big Magic,” Elizabeth Gilbert, author of “Eat Pray Love,” posits that when we were created, there were treasures or jewels that we were given.
Gilbert’s framework is, our treasures are hidden, and the universe stands back to see if we can find them. The hunt, or what I call the life task, is to uncover the treasure. The hunt is living which requires courage. The result of the hunt, the grace of the journey, is what Gilbert calls Big Magic.
This is a life lived with courage and freedom, a life that creates. It is the inspired life. Courage, freedom and creativity give birth to an inspired life.
Peter, in today’s Gospel, showed a form of courage that we can consider making our own. It is the courage to accept his failure. His courage was drawn out by Christ’s question: “Do you love me?”
Peter’s courage to love draws forth the courage he needs, the courage to accept his flaws and imperfection. The courage to accept our shortcomings and failures is a tremendous grace that gives us great freedom.
Freedom from ‘palusot’
This freedom is, first, a freedom from justifying, whether it be with pure or impure intentions. It is a freedom from palusot (making excuses), which, no matter how innocently we begin with, almost always leads us to a cover-up and then a lie.
Once we reach this freedom from justification and lies, a vice often coupled with pride, we have solid ground to begin our journey towards a freedom for the one we love and choose to follow.
One of the stories I admire, a true story, is about a man who had lived a good life. He was no saint, but he was a good man. Yet he lived a lie—I say this without judgment—and when he finally admitted his infidelity, it came with a sigh of relief and his confession: “It feels good not to have to lie anymore.”
It did not make things right in an instant, but the courage to admit his lie was a good start. His courage freed him from his lie and gave him a growing freedom to pursue his truth. As one of his closest associates said of him, he showed that to be a good person, and to be loved by God, one need not be perfect.
So it is with the story of Peter in today’s Gospel. So it is in our story, if we allow the story to reveal itself truthfully. The permission we need to give requires courage and freedom.
Joseph Campbell says, “We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.” Again, this requires courage and freedom to accept the life waiting for us.
This is the grace of the Resurrection. The Resurrection is the life “that is waiting for us.” It is our present life, which we either plan or was planned for us, or a combination of both; or in the case of some, trapped in a life unplanned, but shaped by negative forces such us injustice and inequality caused by the greed, corruption and pride of others.
We pray for courage. We pray for freedom. We pray with a heart and soul that long for a moment of inspiration that gives birth to an inspired life. Yes, all of us can lay claim to this inspired life because all of us have been saved by the Cross and Resurrection of Christ.
Big Magic? Maybe. Definitely grace, the singular grace of our Christian faith—everything in life has meaning and will be transformed by the moment of inspiration when we have the courage to say, “Lord, you know everything, you know well that I love you.”
It is a moment of inspiration that gives us the freedom to hear Christ’s call, to care for others and to follow him; to love and to serve as our following of Christ.
Remember, with courage, freedom and inspiration, that he is the Risen Christ.