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Monthly Scripture Study & Reflection

"There is no substance to a love that does not feel deep remorse for moments of betrayal ."

The Gospel of John

Recommended readings: Path Through Scripture by Fr. Mark Link (Paperback 1995--$14.50), Understanding the Bible: A Basic Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, Fr. George T. Montague, S.M.,(Paperback 1997 $15.96)  An Introduction to New Testament Christology by Fr. Raymond E. Brown. Time magazine hailed Raymond Brown as "the leading U.S. Catholic authority on the Bible."   In this accessible work written for all Bible students, Brown presents an intelligible introduction to the way Jesus was understood in His lifetime and in the lifetimes of His original followers.

   The mood of the Sixties was captured by a book named Love Story and later made into a movie starring Ryan O'neal and Ali McGraw.  This was a "three-hanky" movie because it told of the romance between two Yale students - a polished young man from a rich family and a tough-talking young woman with an immigrant background.

This improbable pair overcame class differences and family objections with a love that rivaled Romeo and Juliet. But their beautiful frolics in the snow and late night study sessions in the library were destined to end tragically, just like their Shakespearean counterparts. The young woman contracted cancer when their love was in full bloom. Out of their struggles to take the measure of this turn of events came the motto of the Sixties: "Love means never having to say you're sorry!"

But such a love is too superficial to bear the weight of a lifetime of commitment and the losses and betrayals that will occur over that lifetime. John's gospel is a poignant reminder that love means having to say you are sorry when you are in the wrong. In fact, for Simon Peter it meant having to say you're sorry three times, for each of the betrayals of his beloved friend and master. There is no substance to a love that does not feel deep remorse for moments of betrayal. Nor is there any substance to love that does not regret the pain that a loved one may suffer because of our pain and loss.

The Sixties represented the triumph of "free love" -- love that did not cost a person commitment or cause a person pain. But that period's plunge into unfettered pleasure-seeking was anything but love.

One of the things that gives the Bible its power is its reporting of the foibles as well as the triumphs of its heroes. Not a single person in the Bible's Hall of Heroes escapes unscathed. With the sole exception of Jesus, every hero is shown to have feet of clay. It almost seems that the greater the hero, the greater the flaws of character. That certainly rings true in the Old Testament where such patriarchs as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob fell down on more than one occasion. The same can be said from prophets such as Samuel, Elijah, and Jeremiah, to say nothing of kings like Saul, David and Solomon.

The heroes in the New Testament are no less tarnished, though their flaws are not magnified in quite the same way as are the heroes of the Old Testament. Simon Peter takes most of the heat in the New Testament, which may seem strange since his confession as the rock upon which the church was built and he was given authority over the church. But Peter was always stumbling over himself at the worst moments. On the eve of the crucifixion, Peter denied his Lord three times (John 18:25-27).

He was given the opportunity to make up for his denials after the resurrection of Jesus, but on that occasion he spoiled the moment by wanting to know if his fate was to be worse than John's. Such moments are all too human, but we usually get ourselves in trouble when we compare ourselves to others. Seldom do such comparisons lead us to great sacrifice or contentment. More often, they stir resentment or jealousy over the differences we see between their lives and ours.

However, comparing ourselves to others can have a positive effect, too. We can learn from others’ mistakes. John reveals Jesus accepting Peter’s shortcomings. When he repents, "You know I love you," Jesus restores him to grace. His desire to forgive us should move us to conversion and to seek forgiveness and reconciliation. GLP



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