A Reading from the Holy Gospel According to John:

Peter’s Restoration, Julius Schnorr von Carolsfel, 1890

After Jesus had revealed himself to his disciples and eaten breakfast with them, he said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He then said to Simon Peter a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”

The Gospel of the Lord.

Transcription of Sermon

This Gospel for today is taken from the end of John’s Gospel, it’s right after the Resurrection of Christ, and you notice in the Gospel, Jesus says to Peter, three times, “Do you love me?” Well, why would He ask him three times?

If you remember on Holy Thursday night, our Lord told Peter, “You’re going to deny me three times.” So, Peter said, “I would never do that. I would never do that.” And then, of course, he did. So, now Our Lord is, in a certain sense, asking him, “Are you still so sure about your love for Me, Peter?” And Peter, he answers the question, as you heard, “Yes, I do love you.” But He asks him three times and Peter is kind of sad because Peter is starting to wonder, “Do I really love Him?” And then, what’s going to happen later, the Holy Spirit is going to come down at Pentecost, this Sunday is Pentecost, and what will happen? Peter’s heart and the other Apostles, their hearts are going to be so filled with love for Christ that there’s going to be no doubt about it. And that’s how much we need the Holy Spirit.

If we really want to love Jesus, truly, we need help from God Himself. And God wants to help us. And, I don’t know if you caught it, but towards the end of this Gospel, Christ is telling Peter, “And later, you’re going to give your life for Me. That’s how much you will love me.” So, all of us need to ask God for help in order to love Him as we ought to love Him in order to love Him as He deserves to be loved. And He will fill our hearts. He wants to. He wants to, but we have to ask Him and we have to cooperate with that.

Saint Philip Neri, Carlo Dolci, 1645 or 1646

Today we celebrate a great saint who knew how to do that. His name is San Filippo Neri, St. Phillip Neary. He was born to a pretty wealthy family in Florence and he studied really hard in school. He had a great personality. Everybody liked to be around St. Phillip. Oh, he wasn’t saint yet, but everybody liked to be around Phillip. And, since he was so intelligent, and he had studied so hard in school, when he was 18, and he had graduated, a businessman said, “I want you to work for me, and I’m going to train you how to run my business and someday this is going to be yours because you are a smart guy, you’re a joyful person, people like to do business with you. And so, you’re going to be the perfect successor for my business.” And he said, “Great, my life is made. I’ve got a job. I’ve got a future.”

And Phillip was always a good Catholic. He never missed Mass. He went to Confession frequently. He prayed a lot. But he wasn’t a saint yet. And then, he had a very, very special experience: Christ revealed himself to Phillip and said, “Phillip, I want you to do My business, not somebody else’s.” And Phillip gave up the job. He didn’t know what our Lord meant. He didn’t know what he was supposed to do. But he knew that he was going to give his life to Jesus.

And so, he went to Rome, and he was a street evangelizer. He was telling people, who didn’t know Christ all, about the truth of the Church. He would evangelize on the streets. He would help the homeless. He would catechize people. And then, he started the study to be a priest, and after three years of study, he thought, “I don’t think this is what God wants me to do. I’m gonna go back to doing what I was doing on the street with the people that need Jesus.”

He had a confessor, a very holy priest, he used to go to Confession all the time. And after a number of years, he said,” I really think God is calling you Phillip to be a priest.” And so, Phillip said, “Oh, well, if you say so. You have a better idea of my soul than I do. Then I’ll do that.”

So, he went and finished his studies. He was ordained a priest. And, through his humor, through his intellect, his mind (he was so smart), through his good spirit. You know, he never complained, and he never talked about himself. He never talked about how he did a lot of penance. He never talked about how he would spend hours in prayer every day. He used to do that secretly. His confessor knew though, his spiritual director knew. But because he spent time with Jesus alone in prayer, he allowed Our Lord to fill his heart, and even physically because, at one point during prayer, he felt this something changed in his chest. And after that, he had this protrusion on his chest that when he died, they opened up his heart, it had grown like three sizes. And it was massive, and it was a symbolic way of showing us how his heart was so filled with God that his heart had to expand. And, certainly, Our Lord wants to do that with us.

He wants us to have a heart that is filled with love for Him. And when He is our first love, and He is the one we when we wake up in the morning, we think about Him, we go to bed, we think about Him, we talk to Him, and during the day, we speak with Him, He changes everything. We still do all the other normal things we do; in our play, in our studies, in our work, in our chores, but He changes those things and He makes them something different. He makes them a prayer itself. And this is something that any one of us can do.

When we have to do our chores, when we have to do our homework, when we have to do anything, even our play, it is Lord, “I give this to You. I’m doing this for You. I’m going to do my best. I’m going to try my best, for You because You deserve the best.” When we have that type of a friendship with Jesus, He fills our heart just like He filled the heart of St. Phillip. And, no doubt, we’ll win many people for Christ.

St. Phillip, he had a great sense of humor. In fact, he’s the patron saint of comedians. He’s also the patron saint of the Green Berets, the Special Forces. They loved him so much that they asked the Church if they could take him as their special patron.  He’s the patron of the Green Berets because he was a man who had a mission. He was a man who never complained, and he always did it with a good spirit and that’s a good model for us to follow.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

— Fr. Ermatinger