The gospel of the third Sunday of Easter (John 21:1-19) made me reflect deeper on the status of authority in the Church in the light of Christ’s mission.
In the gospel, Jesus asked Peter thrice if Peter loved him. In asking the questions, Jesus did not address him as Peter; instead, as “Simon, son of John” (John 21:15,16,17). This was his full name—just like Chidiebere Obiodu. Jesus’ choice of words was highly significant.
First, Jesus changed his name from Simon to Peter when he called him to be an apostle. The scripture reads: “He (Andrew) brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon, son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter)’” (John 1:42 NRSV).
Therefore, by addressing Peter as Simon, son of John, when asking about his love commitment, Jesus referred Peter back to his identity before becoming an apostle. In doing so, Jesus reminded Peter of how grace had brought him thus far. We recall that the same miracle of catching a large quantity of fish after a long and futile effort throughout the night was a repeat of what happened before Jesus called Peter as an apostle (Luke 5:2-11).
Second, Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter because he was to be the rock on which he would build his Church (Matt 16:18). By denying Jesus three times, Peter lost the strength and stability associated with ‘Peter’. Therefore, by thrice addressing him as Simon, son of John, Jesus reminded Peter that he was more concerned with his present spiritual state rather than an expected spirituality. In other words, even though Peter was to lead the Church in the future, he presently fell short because he denied Christ. Hence, Peter needed to restate his love and commitment.
Although Jesus often called him Simon (calling him Peter only once—Luke 22:34) and the scriptures often identify him as Simon Peter, this action of Christ differs. The reason is that “Peter” substituted “Simon” and not “son of John”. The scriptures adopt “Simon Peter” to distinguish Peter from the other apostle, Simon the Cananean (Matt 10:1-4). Moreover, repeating someone’s full name thrice is significant and suggests something serious.
In other words, I was Chidiebere Obiodu before I became Fr. Chidiebere Obiodu. God did not call Fr. Chidiebere Obiodu to the priesthood, but Chidiebere Obiodu.
As priests and religious, this difference is essential because it constantly reminds us of our unworthiness to be ministers of the great mysteries, occupiers of positions of trust, leaders of the flock of Christ, and people respected as Christ’s representatives on earth. Indeed, all is grace because “No one takes this honour on himself; it needs a call from God, as in Aaron’s case” (Heb 5:4 NJB).
Jesus’ message to Peter was simple, consistent, and unequivocal: Feed my lambs-Tend my sheep-Feed my sheep. In a word, CARE. Jesus says the same to us.
Ka Chineke mezie okwu🙏🏾