How many times have we looked to others instead of staying focused on what we need to do or be doing? How many times do we compare ourselves to others, assessing what we or others have or don’t have, how others are more or less confident, more or less better looking, more or less intelligent, and even, how our faith life is worse or better?
We get a taste of these questions and what our response ought to be from Jesus in today’s Gospel. The background of today’s reading is a continuation from yesterday’s, in which the author described how Jesus forgave Peter for denying him by asking him not only if Peter loved him, but how he was to put that love into action by feeding his lambs, taking care of and feeding his sheep. Jesus also had just let Peter know that Peter was going to die in his service to him.
Today we read that upon hearing the news of his eventual death, that Peter shifts the direction away from himself. When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus said to him, “What if I want him to remain until I come? What concern is it of yours? You follow me” (Jn 21:21-22). Jesus does not definitively say what is or is not going to happen to the beloved disciple. Jesus is clear with Peter that his focus is not to be on what is going to happen to the beloved or any other disciple, but to direct his attention to following him and his will.
Our orientation as disciples of Jesus is to be focused on his will for our lives and to expend our energy in such a way that promotes his will toward building up the kingdom of Heaven on earth. We are to spend less time comparing ourselves to others. This temptation is a very slippery slope that can easily lead us to the devastating sins of gossip, pride, and envy. If we are to compare ourselves to anyone, let it be to Jesus.
Jesus calls us to be perfect as his heavenly Father is perfect, which is an impossible task if we seek to go it alone. Yet, we can become perfected through our participation in the life of Jesus the Christ. We begin when we decide to ask for Jesus to help us make a commitment to resist the temptation to compare ourselves to others. Then when the first instant of a comparative thought arises, we are to replace it with a prayer of blessing directed toward another.
Moment by moment, we then just need to remember that we are not alone, that we walk with Jesus. Together, one thought at a time, one action at a time, one interaction at a time, we are called to surrender our will to the love of God. By taking these steps to counter the influences of self first, comparative and celebrity culture, we can begin to shift the momentum away from the increasing divisiveness, polarity and growing tide of rampant violence, and instead strive toward embracing the gift of our mutual uniqueness and diversity in which we commit to supporting, encouraging, and uplifting one another.
Let us combine our prayer with action in our realm of influence at the community, state, and federal level so to build bridges of communication, conflict resolution, and dialogue. In so doing, we will begin to curb the fear, prejudice, and violence in our country. We need to be willing to see each other as human beings again, to resist seeing people as others, and be more willing to respect the dignity of each and every human life. This will happen when we resist comparing ourselves to others and are willing to see each other through God’s eyes.