We share with our Congregational Family the Homily of the Closing Eucharist of the General Chapter CCVI 2022. Thanks for accompanying us!
Closing Liturgy, May 2, 2022, San Angel, Mexico City
By Sr. Eilish Ryan, CCVI
Readings: 1 Cor. 12: 4-20 and John 21:1-19
Today’s readings highlight the necessity for diversity, unity, and genuine relationships in the life of the Church and of any Christian community. These readings seem especially appropriate for this closing liturgy of our 2022 General Chapter.
In the reading from First Corinthians, Paul teaches that although there are many gifts, they all flow from the same Spirit, for the benefit of the whole community. These different gifts lead to a diversity of ministries and service. As Paul also notes, however, it is the same God who produces all of them through the lives and ministries of the individual members. The one Spirit distributes the gifts needed for the life of the whole community, as the Spirit wills. Consequently, through the diversity of gifts the community receives all that is necessary for its well-being and ministry.
In the second part of this reading, Paul stresses the importance of unity among the diverse members. In a somewhat humorous tone, he describes how ridiculous it would be to have jealousies about who has what gifts. How would the hands complete their work without the feet to carry them around? How could the ear function if it were not part of a complete body? The image of a whole body being an eye belongs in a cartoon or comic book! Paul’s point, however, is serious and clear! As a human body functions through the coordinated abilities of its many parts, so too, the Body of Christ functions through the collaboration of its many members. Although there are many parts, there can only be one body in Christ.
There are many ways to interpret John’s gospel narrative about Jesus’ questioning Peter three times. I will focus on a nuance which is more apparent in the original Greek text than in languages which have only one word for “love,” where Greek has four terms. When I first learned this many years ago, this text sprang to life in a new way.
Why did Jesus repeat his question to Peter? Was he pushing Peter to give a different response? In the Greek text there are subtle shifts in the verbs, which I believe can speak to us today at the conclusion of this General Chapter. Jesus begins with a simple, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” Here, John uses the word agapais, an unselfish, total-giving love. Peter responds with a different verb, “Yes, Lord, you know I philo you,” a friendly affection.
Jesus tries again, “Simon, son of John, do you agapais me?” [selfless, total commitment] Peter repeats his first response, “Yes, Lord, you know that I am your true friend. I philo you.”
In his third attempt, Jesus, possibly impatient by now, repeats the question but on Peter’s level, “Simon, son of John, do you phileis me?” [Are you truly my friend?] Saddened at being questioned a third time, Peter answers emphatically, “Lord, you know everything, you know I philo you.” [I truly have deep affection for you.] At this point, Jesus compassionately receives Peter’s simple declaration of true friendship and commissions him to feed his Sheep.
In the earlier part of this dialogue, while Peter struggled to express his commitment, Jesus repeatedly called him to care for his flock with successively greater responsibility: Feed my lambs; Shepherd my little sheep; Feed my Sheep. Peter later proved the true depth of his total self-giving love when he gave his life rather than deny Jesus. Jesus had gradually drawn him into a deeper commitment.
Throughout our Chapter process, we too have struggled to respond deeply to Jesus’ repeated invitation to us to live on a deeper, more intimate, level of self-sacrificing love through presence and communion. We prayed, we reflected, and we gave our best effort, which Jesus graciously received.
May the transforming graces of this General Chapter strengthen and encourage not only the CCVI’s but also our Associates, coworkers, benefactors, and friends—the whole CCVI family. May we strengthen relationships and face new challenges through deep prayer and with trust that God is with us as we serve those who seek relief at our hands, as we live our lives for God and open our hearts to others.
Praised be the Incarnate Word.