“He was ashamed because he did not feel worthy, he had a spiritual torment and he went to the confessor,” Pope Francis said at his May 17 daily Mass.
“The confessor heard him and said, ‘but do not worry, if after the mess Peter made of things, they made him Pope, then you go ahead!’” he recalled.
The Pope delivered his homily on the Gospel reading from John 21, which tells the story of Jesus asking Peter if he loved him three separate times.
According to the pontiff, people should try harder to encounter Jesus rather than focus on their own sins.
“Many times, we look the other way because we do not want to talk with the Lord or allow ourselves to encounter the Lord,” he stated.
“Meeting the Lord is important, but more importantly, let us be met by the Lord, this is a grace,” he added.
“Peter let himself be shaped by his many encounters with Jesus,” the Pope noted, “and this is something we all need to do as well, for we are on the same road.”
“Peter is great, not because he is good, but because he has a nobility of heart, which brings him to tears, leads him to this pain, this shame and also to take up his work of shepherding the flock,” he remarked.
The pontiff noted “the problem is not that we are sinners: the problem is not repenting of sin; not being ashamed of what we have done, that’s the problem.”
“The Lord makes us mature with many meetings with Him, even with our weaknesses, when we recognize them with our sins,” Pope Francis said.
“The point is that this is how the Lord is, that’s the way He is,” he said.
Referring back to the Gospel reading, Pope Francis said the questions Jesus posed to Peter are “a dialogue of love between the Lord and his disciple.”
He explained that the narration goes back to the history of Peter’s meetings with Jesus, from his invitation to follow the Lord, to his receiving the name of the Rock, “a mission which was there, even if Peter understood nothing of it at the time.”
“Peter was saddened that, for a third time, Jesus asked him, ‘do you love me?’” said Pope Francis.
Peter was a great man, the Holy Father remarked, but he was also a sinner and this question made him feel “pain” and “shame.”
“The Lord makes him feel that he is a sinner, makes us all feel that we are sinners,” but this shame and humility “brings him to a new encounter with Jesus” and “to the joy of forgiveness,” the Pope preached.