There is a quiet promise in Spring’s beginnings, in the newness of green intertwined with gnarled branches, in the steady gray rain and the bright colored raingear, in raucous thunder storms and the whisper of bird songs at dawn. And the season of Easter continues to entice and challenge. There is a quiet strength in that as well.
The Gospels in these weeks after Easter are alive with the incomprehensible moments of Jesus’ rising and then the appearances. The Liturgy unwinds reality with a cool certainty. There are the words to Peter about the agency of youth and then the shift in age, being lead where he would rather not go. Traditionally, the words are understood as references to Peter’s crucifixion, his life and death in service to Christ. Wrapping it in the human story means recognizing the challenges of commitment and aging, the very process that living beings confront daily. It is a whisper of wisdom, of learning and loss, a hint of the reality that humbles and hurts.
It is the Gospel message that humanity is shared and the processes of life and death are universal. The very explanation of the human journey frames more than Peter’s life; it provides a pathway for tender compassion threading generations together, a clear statement about remembering to learn about what is happening at each stage of human life. That awareness enables a strength that transcends the incredible suffering that Life demands of persons; it pops open the chance for meaningful conversation among persons, for learning and discovery of all that is created.
There is the moment where, three times, Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” For Peter, the pattern echoes both his denial of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane and the birth of his redemption in Jesus’ forgiveness. To hear the words with the human heart means learning that there are moments, decisions, choices, we make that will need the comfort of redemption. Setting and characters may vary, but the theme of the story is not confined to a century or culture. It is tied to all humanity.
The stories of the Liturgy fully encapsulate the Christian message: fault and flaw can be redeemed. Forgiveness is a real possibility, and it is multi-faceted. Forgiveness from others is but one dimension; forgiveness of self is a second. Forgiveness, and acknowledgment of it, is about words and action. Peter empitomizes that, but the figure he cuts promises that the same is true for other living beings centuries later.
Believing that forgiveness is essential on the life journey is a profound embrace of what it means to be human and what it means to be Christian. Accepting that and moving forward, as Peter does, offers a quiet and invigorating strength. Like the sweet fresh greens of spring, forgiveness promises new life to the most broken of branches. In the weeks of celebrating Easter, new life is there as a promise for all. It is, after all, about the engagement of each person in a narrative greater than self and the willingness to explore the fundamential dichotomies that exist within each of us. Christianity is about living in the roar of thunder and knowing the whisper of the birds. It is bursting with possibilities.