“Simon, son of John, do you love me?” – a question asked not once, but three times. Each time when Simon Peter responds, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you,” Jesus invites Peter’s response to go beyond words, to action, “Feed my lambs, feed my sheep.” These weeks beyond Easter Sunday present us with the same invitation to respond to Jesus’ resurrection. We are invited to reflect on what our lived response to the resurrection is.
I’ve been thinking a lot about responses recently. On Palm Sunday I was doing a Children’s Liturgy with those preparing for First Holy Communion. We spent our time exploring the journey of Jesus from the gates of Jerusalem to the tomb, the thoughts and feelings, possible reasons why people did what they did, what we may have done if we had been present.
We came to the washing of the feet and I asked the children how they would have responded if Jesus announced he was going to wash their feet. “Nervous”, “worried about smelly feet”, “confused” were some of the responses. Then one little girl said she would feel sad – why sad, I asked. “Because Jesus has been so good and done so much for us and for everyone, we should be washing his feet instead,” she explained.
That little girl’s response was utterly honest, full of love and wisdom. Is it any wonder that Jesus told us that we need to become like little children if we want to inherit the kingdom of God?
Just before Easter I was present at the wake and on Holy Thursday the funeral of a little boy who died suddenly. In a place where there could have been anger and despair, I encountered gentle heartbreak, love and a deep gratitude for a short life filled with fun and delight. Even in the midst of such tragedy and loss, death was not given the final word. The funeral liturgy was devastatingly sad and yet beautiful. Faith, hope and love shone through and I was so aware that on Holy Thursday morning I was standing in a place where resurrection was a reality.
That same evening a young woman, a journalist, Lyra McKee was shot and killed in Derry. The response of the local community has been clear and strong – they want nothing to do with the evil which robbed this talented young woman of life. People who may previously have had reservations about engaging with the police in Northern Ireland have stepped up and given information on what they saw and heard on that night.
Some of Lyra McKee’s friends and colleagues went to the house used by this paramilitary group and left blood red hand prints on the walls. When interviewed one woman was clear, “Lyra McKee has been killed so if I get arrested for doing this or even put in prison for doing this I don’t care.”
I don’t know and indeed it doesn’t matter, how many of the people who have spoken out about the murder of Lyra McKee are Christian. What matters is that they are speaking out. They are not leaving the final word to her killers.
These weeks when we approach the resurrection story from different angles and the perspective of different people give us the opportunity to reflect on what our own response is. As Peter found out, words are not enough. We are called to be people of the resurrection, people whose lives are shaped by what happened in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
The Resurrection cannot simply be about life after death and that we will all be reunited in heaven. It has to be about now too. So, it is about how we respond, how we refuse to be broken, how we hold on to and proclaim goodness and love and hope.