”…Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.’ (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, ‘Follow me.’” (Jn 21: 17-19)
In St. Peter’s case, going “where he did not wish to go” in his old age, as the Lord foretells, meant the Apostle’s “kind of death.” Because St. Peter died, according to Tradition, crucified head down, his hands stretched out on a cross.A similar phenomenon happens to all of us on our cross-carrying journeys, as we “grow old,” doesn’t it? At least to some degree? While we were younger, we tended “to go wherever we wished.” But with age, our responsibilities to “someone else,” like our spouse or our children or other “sheep,” increasingly tie us down and take us where we “do not wish to go.” And this growth in self-giving, according to our vocation, is a good thing, by which we “glorify God.” Hence we celebrate a couple getting married, “crowning” them as martyrs, and we “fasten a belt around” a priest when he is ordained.
Today let me not fear the vulnerability and self-giving that comes with “growing old,” even when it takes me where I “do not wish to go.” It is part-and-parcel of my light-filled journey in Him, Who asks me today, “Do you love me?” and urges me forward, saying simply, “Follow me.”