Year C – 3rd Sunday of Easter

Learning from St Peter

(Acts 5:27-32,40-41; Rev.5:11-14; Jn.21:1-19)

Many people really love St Peter. They’re drawn to him because he’s so human, just like us. But what do we know about him?

Sadly, little is known of Peter’s early life, except that he was born Simon Bar-Jonah (‘Son of Jonah’) in Bethsaida, a village northeast of and near the Sea of Galilee (Jn.1:44). In Aramaic, his name was Symeon (Simon is Greek), and like his father and brother Andrew, he was a commercial fisherman. They worked the Sea of Galilee together with the sons of Zebedee, John and James, who also became disciples of Jesus (Mt.4:21-22).

Being a fisherman, Simon was physically strong. Most artists portray him as sturdy and thick-set with curly hair and a beard. [i] And like most Galileans, he spoke Aramaic and probably some Greek, but he was no scholar because he had no formal education (Acts 4:13).

Both Simon and Andrew were followers of John the Baptist. Once, when Simon was aged about 40, he and Andrew visited John in Bethany. Jesus was there. Andrew introduced his brother to him, saying, ‘We’ve found the Messiah!’ Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon, son of John. You will be called Cephas’ (Jn.1:35-42). Cephas is the Aramaic word for Peter, which means rock.

In other words, even before they had met, Jesus had plans for Peter.

By this time, Peter was married (Mk.1:30), had children, and lived in Capernaum with his family and mother-in-law. [ii]

Soon after they met, Jesus visited Peter at home and cured his mother-in-law of a fever (Mk.1:29-31). Jesus often stayed there, and with James and John, Peter became one of Jesus’ closest friends. In fact, Peter, James and John were privileged to witness many events no-one else ever saw, including Jesus’ Transfiguration, his Agony in the Garden, and his resurrection of a young girl, the daughter of Jairus.

The gospels tell us that Peter was impulsive, headstrong and outspoken (Jn.18:10), and he often blundered. For example, by keeping children away from Jesus (Mk.10:13), by refusing to let Jesus wash his feet (Jn.13:8), by denying Jesus three times (Lk.22:33-34), and by cutting off Malchus’ ear in the Garden of Gethsemane (Jn.18:10).

So, why did Jesus choose Peter as the rock on which to build his church (Mt.16:18)? Wasn’t he more of a stumbling stone?

Well, Peter was human, just like us. But he had enough intelligence and humility to recognise his own failings (Lk.5:8), and he tried to fix them. Jesus also knew that Peter had a good heart and a strong faith.

Indeed, Peter had left everything to follow Jesus. He was the first disciple to recognise Jesus as the Messiah (Mt.16:16), and because of his trust in Jesus he even walked on water (Mt.14:22).

And in today’s Gospel, Peter is the first disciple to dive into the water when they recognise Jesus at Tabgha. Soon afterwards, they’re all enjoying breakfast on that pebbly beach. Then, Jesus takes Peter aside and asks him three times, ‘Do you love me?’ Each time Peter replies, ‘Yes, Lord’.

Here, Jesus is giving Peter a chance to undo the three times he denied him. 

But Jesus also does something else. He repeatedly says to Peter, if you really love me, then ‘feed my lambs’ and ‘take care of my sheep’.  In other words, he’s telling Peter to lead his universal Church.

We know that Peter takes this command seriously, because in today’s first reading he confronts the Sanhedrin, the powerful Temple leaders who crucified Jesus. Earlier, Peter had been terrified of these people; that’s why he denied knowing Jesus three times.  But now he’s filled with the power of the Holy Spirit and he stands up to them.

Jesus believed in Peter, and gave him the time he needed to grow into a gifted preacher and a strong leader who converted thousands of people.

After Jesus’ Ascension, Peter worked for about ten years in and around Jerusalem and Antioch, and for his last 25 years he served as the first bishop of Rome.

However, the emperor Nero hated Christians, and in c.67AD he had Peter crucified upside down. He was buried on Vatican Hill where St Peter’s Basilica now stands. [iii]

St Peter was an ordinary, humble and imperfect man who became one of the greatest saints, and today he is a model for our own lives.

When Peter heard his call, he dropped everything to follow Jesus. He came to love and trust Jesus completely, even when he didn’t understand him. And although Peter did make mistakes, with Jesus’ love and forgiveness he learnt to do better.

St Peter teaches us that you don’t have to be perfect to be a saint.

You only have to be faithful, loving and loyal to Jesus.

[i] D H Farmer (Ed.), Butler’s Lives of the Saints. The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, 1997, 229.


[iii] Stephen J Binz, St Peter – Flawed, Forgiven and Faithful, Loyola Press, Chicago, 2015.

Year C – Easter Sunday

The Hill of Crosses

[Acts 10:34, 37-43; Col.3:1-4; Jn.20:1-9]

Christ is risen! Alleluia! Happy Easter, everyone!

In Northern Lithuania, two and a half hours’ drive from Vilnius, the capital, there’s a place called the Hill of Crosses. It’s a small hill in the middle of green farmland, densely covered with countless thousands of crosses of all shapes and sizes.

For hundreds of years, this hill has symbolised the deep Christian faith and independent spirit of the Lithuanian people. Every day, people go there to pray and reflect, and to add new crosses.

Among these crosses, there’s a statue of Jesus sitting under a roof, praying quietly. His sad face represents the millions of Christians who for years could only worship in secret under Soviet Russia.

The Soviets hated this hill; they bulldozed it and burnt the crosses many times. But despite the risks, the people kept returning. In 1973, after again bulldozing it, soldiers started guarding this hill, but still the locals returned late at night to plant new crosses. [i]

Special place: Some of the sights of The Hill of Crosses.

Today as we celebrate the joy of Easter, we are reminded that millions of people around the world cannot express their religious faith freely. They cannot do what we’re now doing: celebrating Jesus’ Resurrection and promise of eternal life.

In too many places, people are told what to think and believe, and they’re punished if they disobey. From 1944 to 1953, over 500,000 Lithuanians were sent to suffer and die in the gulags of Siberia. [ii]

Happily, Lithuania regained its independence in 1990, and today the Hill of Crosses is a beacon for peace and a memorial to all who died for their faith. In 1993, St John Paul II celebrated Mass here, and gave thanks for the courage of the Lithuanian people. 

Sadly, however, it’s now Ukraine that’s suffering under the boot of Russian repression.

Malcolm Muggeridge (1903-90), the British author and TV personality, visited the Soviet Union in the 1930s, at the height of Stalin’s reign of terror. Working as a journalist, he felt deeply for the ordinary people in their suffering, particularly in Ukraine where ten million were cruelly starved to death in an artificial famine. [iii]

On Easter Sunday in 1933, he visited a church in Kyiv and was amazed. ‘What a congregation that was,’ he wrote, ‘packed in tight, squeezed together like sardines in a tin.

‘I myself was pressed against a stone pillar, and scarcely able to breathe. So many grey, hungry faces, all luminous like an El Greco painting, and all singing. How they sang, about how there was no help except in Christ, nowhere to turn, except to him; nothing, nothing that could possibly bring any comfort except Jesus himself.

‘I could have touched him then,’ Muggeridge wrote. ‘Jesus was so near – not up at the altar, where the bearded priests were, but among the people. He was one of the grey faces, the greyest and most luminous of all.’

Muggeridge said it was strange that the place where he found himself closest to Christ was the place where for fifty years the Christian faith had been ruthlessly suppressed; where the printing of the Gospels was forbidden, and where Christ was mocked by all the organs of the all-powerful state, just as the Roman soldiers mocked him 2,000 years before.

‘Yet, on reflection,’ he said, ‘it’s not so strange. The situation provided the perfect circumstances for the Christian faith to bloom anew; so (much) like the circumstances in which it first bloomed at the beginning of the Christian era.’ [iv]

2,000 years ago, the cross was the terrifying symbol of Roman domination, and the threat of crucifixion kept rebels under control. But on Calvary, that very first Hill of Crosses, Jesus embraced that awful symbol and accepted that shocking death, and transformed them into the doorway to freedom and eternal life.

Today, the Hill of Crosses is a powerful symbol of hope. It represents the unquenchable thirst of ordinary people for truth and love, and it reminds tyrants that their day of reckoning is coming, because our loving God has demonstrated his awesome power.

Christ is risen! Alleluia!

Hill of Crosses

As to Malcolm Muggeridge, he had long been a cynical atheist. But he changed after witnessing the brutality of communism and the profound faith of ordinary Ukrainians. He went on to discover Mother Teresa in Calcutta and he made her famous. And in 1982 he became a Catholic.

Today, there’s a war underway, but it’s not just in Ukraine. It’s a worldwide spiritual battle between truth and lies, between light and darkness, and between goodness and evil.

As life unfolds, remember the truth and beauty of the Hill of Crosses.

Christ is Risen! Alleluia!




[iv] Flor McCarthy, New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies, Year C. Dominican Publications, Dublin. 2018:109-110.

Year C – Palm Sunday

The Shroud of Turin

(Is.50:4-7; Phil.2:6-11; Lk.22:14-23:56)

Apart from the Cross, nothing depicts the Passion of Christ more powerfully than the Shroud of Turin.

After Jesus died on the Cross, Joseph of Arimathea asked Pontius Pilate for permission to bury Jesus. Pilate agreed. He then bought a linen cloth, took Jesus down from the Cross, wrapped him in it and buried him (Lk.23:46-56). 

John’s Gospel tells us that the Shroud was left behind when Jesus rose from the dead (Jn.20:5-7). And history says it was kept by Byzantine Emperors until 1204AD. It was then taken by Crusaders to France, and in 1578 it went to Turin, where it remains today.[i]

The Shroud has been studied countless times, and it’s been described as a supernatural photo negative of Jesus lying in the tomb, taken by God probably at the moment of his Resurrection. Measuring 4.3m x 1.1m, it bears images of his front and back, as it was placed under him and then pulled over his head to cover the rest of his body.

The Shroud depicts someone who endured everything that Jesus suffered: scourging, beatings, crowning with thorns, and nails through his wrists and feet.

Close analysis shows hundreds of wounds from scourging, and it reveals that Jesus was tortured by two soldiers, using two different whips, one with pieces of metal or bone embedded into it. The entire body is covered with these wounds, particularly the back, chest and hips.

The Shroud also shows evidence of the crown of thorns, but it didn’t have a hole in the middle. It was more like a cap covering the whole head, with long thorns causing significant pain and bleeding.

The legs show even more wounds, especially on and just above the right knee, possibly caused by Jesus falling on his way to Calvary. There’s also a large 10cm x 9cm injury on his right shoulder, probably caused by the rough Cross opening up the wounds from the scourging at the pillar.

On the left of his back, there’s another large wound, revealing that the Cross had torn his flesh. And it shows that three nails were used; one through each wrist, and one nail through both feet.

Many people think that the nails pierced Jesus’ palms, but his palms couldn’t have carried his weight. Standard Roman practice was to nail the wrists instead.

There’s also a serious chest wound, near his heart, and the bloodstain shows that it was inflicted after Jesus died.

The Shroud has long been controversial. In 1988, radiocarbon testing dated the Shroud to around the Middle Ages, but since then that test has been discredited. Today, most people accept the Shroud as genuine.

How do we know? Well, for a start, science has identified that none of the fluids on it could have been artificially applied. It’s not a painting. The wounds, the blood flows and the bloodstains are just too perfect.[ii] They behave exactly like the real thing, down to the last detail, and they mirror what the Gospels tell us.

As well, it’s not just ordinary blood we see; the different fluids could only have come from someone who died a traumatic death. And the blood type AB matches the blood found in many Eucharistic miracles.[iii]

The Pietà (1584) by Simone Peterzano (c.1535–1599). Church of San Fedele, Milan.

Textile experts also say that the cloth’s weave matches another 1st Century fabric found at Masada. And 70 varieties of pollen were found on the Shroud, all from the Middle East. 38 of them came from within 80 km of Jerusalem, and 14 grow nowhere else. This confirms that the Shroud came from Palestine.

As well, the dirt found at the feet of the Shroud contains a rare form of calcium only found in caves near Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate.

The Catholic Church makes no claims about the cloth’s authenticity, but it does recognise it as a powerful symbol of Christ’s suffering. [iv]

In 1998, when St John Paul II visited Turin, he said that the Shroud is a mirror of the Gospel and a reason for deep reflection, for it helps us understand the mystery of God’s love for us. He also said that it invites us to model our lives on Jesus who sacrificed himself for us. [v]

It’s hard not to be moved by all this. The Gospels and the Shroud both reveal just how much Jesus loves us, and how much suffering he has endured for us.

They also remind us that there’s no hardship we could ever face that Jesus hasn’t already suffered – and more. He really does understand what we might be going through.

So, as Easter approaches, be sure to thank Jesus and tell him how much you love him.

[i] Ian Wilson, The Shroud of Turin: The Burial Cloth of Christ? 1979.


[iii] Ron Tesoriero, My Human Heart. Published by Ron Tesoriero, Kincumber, 2021:227-235.



Year C – 5th Sunday in Lent

All Things New Again

(Is.43:16-21; Phil.3:8-14; Jn.8:1-11)

Is it possible to let go of the past and start again?

Let’s consider the story of Corrie Ten Boom. During WWII, in the Netherlands, she and her family hid Jews in their home. But the Nazis caught them and sent them to a concentration camp where they suffered terribly. Only Corrie survived the ordeal.

After the war, she travelled Europe, telling others about her faith. In 1947, while speaking about forgiveness in a church in Munich, she noticed a bald man near the door. She froze. He was the cruellest of the guards from that concentration camp.

After her talk, he came up to shake her hand. ‘Thanks for your message,’ he said, ‘It’s wonderful to know that all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!’

Corrie ten Boom (1892-1983) - Find a Grave Memorial

She had been talking about forgiveness, but she despised this man. She couldn’t shake his hand or forgive him.

Then she realized he couldn’t have recognised her; that camp had thousands of prisoners.

‘You mentioned Ravensbruck,’ he said, his hand still extended. ‘I was a guard there. I’m ashamed to admit it … But since then, I’ve come to know Jesus. It’s been hard to forgive myself for all the cruel things I did, but I know God has forgiven me. And please, I’d like to hear you say that God has forgiven me.’

In her book, The Hiding Place, she wrote: ‘I stood there, I whose sins had been forgiven again and again, and couldn’t forgive. It was only for a few seconds that he stood there with his hand held out, but it seemed like hours as I wrestled with the hardest thing I’d ever had to do. For I had to do it. I knew that. It was as simple and as horrible as that. And still I stood there with coldness clutching my heart. And so, woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out towards me.’

‘And as I did, an incredible thing happened. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, and sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes. “I forgive you, brother,” I cried. “With all my heart!”’

‘For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the prisoner. I’d never known God’s love so intensely as I did then,’ she wrote. [i]

In that moment, Corrie’s life changed. She’d learnt to forgive; she’d learnt how to let go and start again. But his life changed, too. He’d carried the most terrible guilt, but he confessed and was forgiven, and he could also start again.

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In today’s first reading from Isaiah, God says, ‘See, I’m doing a new thing…’ In so many different ways, God gives new life to broken people.

All through Scripture we see God releasing people from impossible situations, making things new again. He frees the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, he heals the blind (Mk.8:22-26), the lame (Mt.9:2-8) and the deaf (Mk.7:31-37). He brings Lazarus and Jairus’ daughter back to life (Jn.11:1-44; Mt.9:18-26).

And in today’s Gospel, Jesus gives new life to a desperately troubled woman. Jesus is in the temple when some Scribes and Pharisees drag her over, saying, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in a terrible act of sin. The Law of Moses says she should be punished by stoning. What do you say?’

Now, these men aren’t interested in this woman; they only want to trap Jesus. But Jesus doesn’t answer. He simply looks at them, knowing what they’re up to. Then he says that the person who’s without sin should throw the first stone.

They must have felt ashamed, because one by one they leave, leaving Jesus alone with her. He forgives the woman and says, ‘Go, and from now on don’t sin anymore.’

She must truly have been overjoyed, because she, too, is given new life.

Today, so many people feel trapped by sadness, disappointment, guilt and fear. They feel stuck and can’t move forward.

But they forget that as Christians, we are the Resurrection people, and the Resurrection wasn’t a once-off event. It’s also not just at the end of our lives.

Resurrection happens every day, as God works his mercy, forgiveness and healing in us in all sorts of different ways.

‘See, I am doing new things,’ God says, ‘can you not see it?’

God is always doing new things: shining his light into dark places, giving us hope and new life. But we need to open our eyes and hearts to see.

God does amazing things when we open ourselves up to him.

As St Paul says, ‘No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him’ (1Cor.2:9).

[1] Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place, Random House, NY, 1998.