Do You Love Me?
Today's gospel passage from John is one of the most beautiful and painful in Scripture. It's painful because we are with a man who has failed and not just any man - Cephas, the rock, Peter. We wince as we witness a weak man probed by the exacting light of divine love. But this passage is also beautiful because we see a man totally rehabilitated by divine love, and then given the greatest responsibility a man could ever have.
The Lord is so powerful that he will make this very apostle who denied him to be the head of his flock. Peter will need to love the Lord more than the others because more is being asked of him.
Jesus asks Peter: do you love me? Through this dialogue, we see Jesus rehabilitate Peter through divine love, make Peter a sign of hope for other sinners, and equip Peter for his sacred mission. Jesus wants to do the same with us.
Nothing can rival our love for Jesus. Nothing. And if we allow our love to become divided, we lose Him. But in loving him completely, we gain everything. All loves in this world must be subordinated to the love of Jesus. All other loves in this world must find their origin and completion in the love of Jesus.
Full Audio Transcript
00:01 Well, this weekend is one of the special joys of a pastor in giving children their first Holy Communion. And uh, we're glad to have with us at this particular mass, Michael and Madeline, and Adgmaui and, Makayla, and Elizabeth and Bradley. And we rejoice with you in this special day of your life. No, it does. The reason, one of the things that the first holy communion does is it reminds us about what is essential and that is this: our relationship with Jesus Christ. And it's about a relationship with Him and a relationship that is very close and very intimate as the Eucharist teaches us. And then how it helps to shed light to on the gospel passage we just heard.
00:48 You know, I find this passage from John, one of the most beautiful and, and painful passages from scripture, let's put ourselves there in the scene with Peter. It's painful because we are with a man who has failed and not just any man, the Cephas, the Rock Peter. And we can wince as we witness a weak man probed by the exacting light of divine love.
01:21 And it's beautiful because we see a man totally rehabilitated by divine love and then given the greatest responsibility of man could ever have.
01:33 In the wake of the disillusionment and the suffering of the Master's passion and cross, Peter and the disciples revert back to what they know best. They fish. And obeying Jesus's words from the shore, they recognize the risen Lord and come to eat with him, and Peter and the Lord have some unfinished business. We can understand that if we've ever violated trust, or really hurt somebody that we love. We know we need to have that. Be able to look that person in the eye to have that uncomfortable, difficult conversation to rectify the relationship. Because so far in Jesus' appearances after the resurrection, nothing has been said about Peter's denial at the charcoal fire on that dark and fearful night of Holy Thursday.
02:29 Now we're at a new charcoal fire at the, at the Sea of Tiberius. It's wild that the, that it's the same Greek word - Anthrakia - charcoal fire both at Peter's denial and in his restoration. The only two times you find it in the Bible, and in this the risen Lord asks a question that can cut like a scalpel into Peter's large but wounded heart.
03:01 And at this charcoal fire, Peter is able to unmake in love the denial he made in fear. Because Jesus hasn't given up on Peter. After all he declared and whatever God declares is permanent. You are Peter, and upon this rock, I will build my church and the gates of the Netherworld shall not prevail against it. The Lord is so powerful that he will make this very apostle who denied him to be the head of his flock. Peter will need to love the Lord more than the others because more is being asked of him.
03:46 And all of this revolves around those three questions that Jesus asks Peter: do you love me? Through the three ways he asks this question, we see Jesus lead, his Cephas, his rock through three stages: He rehabilitates Peter through divine love, He makes Peter a sign of hope for other sinners, and he equips Peter for his sacred mission.
04:19 Jesus wants to do the same with us. To rehabilitate us through divine love, to make us a sign of hope for other sinners, and to equip us for our sacred mission. First, Jesus rehabilitates Peter through divine love. You know he already has Peter's confession of faith. We saw that in in the middle of the gospel of Matthew, his declaration: You are the Christ.
04:51 Now Jesus wants from Peter a confession of love. Peter, do you love me more than these? Do you love me more than these nets? This boat? What you have known your whole life? Your apparent vocation, that which is so familiar and comfortable to you? Do you love me more than these? Your wife, your mother in law, those you love, those who love you, your own desires, petty arguments, hangups, obsessions, your free time, your thoughts, your doubts, your will, your actions, your fears, your very life? You, the denier. Do you love me more than the beloved disciple who stood there under the cross and watched me die? Do you love me more than these?
05:52 Nothing can rival our love for Jesus. Nothing. We cannot serve both God and the world. And if we allow our love to become divided, we lose him. But in loving him completely, we gain everything.
06:09 All loves in this world must be subordinated to the love of Jesus. All other loves in this world must be purified in the love of Jesus. All other loves in this world must find their origin and completion in the love of Jesus. And this is an important point, especially for today, when we have our young holy communicants here, receiving for the first time there, Lord Jesus, his body, blood, soul, and divinity. Jesus is asking you, do you love me? Because he desires that intimate life and relationship with them. And that is how far he's willing to go to become our food and drink of the bread and wine changing into his body and blood so that he can communicate his love and life to us.
07:10 And when we get that, when we understand what that, what the reality is and what it is he is doing and what it is that he desires, we would never ever miss mass on a Sunday or a holy day of obligation. In fact, we would try to go as often as we can. It's that important.
07:37 The second: Jesus makes Peter a sign of hope for sinners. For the rest of his life, Peter knows that being made the vicar of Christ on earth is not because of his gifts and his talents and his achievements. He has nothing to boast of himself, just his faith and love that Jesus has given him. And this is why the successor of Peter will never be brought down. It is the very power of Jesus that sustains this necessary office in the church.
08:14 And it's no accident that Peter and the apostles failed during his passion, otherwise we sinners would easily despair. The Lord wished that his salvation would not be dispensed to the world from the top of Mount Olympus by demigods. Rather, he wills that his salvation be communicated by men who are repentant sinners. Pliable instruments in the Lord's hands because they too stand in dire need of his love and mercy. And again, here at this point we also think of our first communicants. And in that that intrinsic and essential connection between the blessed sacrament and confession. And then, and this is why our first communicants have already received their first confession and more than once in order to have their souls cleansed, and to be set on fire with love so they can receive the Lord worthily. And this is something that we need throughout our lives because we do fall into sin again.
09:29 And third, by being rehabilitated by divine love and made into a sign of hope, Peter is enabled to accomplish his sacred mission is the vicar of Christ. Jesus's words to Peter: follow me.
09:47 And in our reading from Acts, we see that all of Peter's fears stemming from his denial is gone. He has repented. He has met the risen one and received his mercy. He knows that his life is no longer his, it belongs to Jesus and no one can take that from him. This is to live without fear.
10:11 Better for us to obey God rather than men, they fire back at the Sanhedrin. The apostles don't cower at all with the command forbidding them to preach in the name of Jesus. It neither frightens nor depresses them, and they seek no diplomatic compromise. Instead, they rejoice for having been judged worthy to suffer mistreatment for Jesus's name. Peter can now fearlessly preach the Gospel he had formerly denied and to go to the extreme of his mission as the chief shepherd of the flock to lay down his life in imitation of the master. Because as we know, Peter, at the end of his life, will get another chance to show his fidelity to the Lord, through his own passion and instead of denying him in in the Nero's circus in Rome chose to be crucified upside down.
11:23 Today, now, Jesus wants to do something in us. He wants to have this intimate conversation with us, not on the shores of the Sea of Tiberius, beautiful as they are. I remember being there on pilgrimage on a beautiful Sunday, Sunday evening going over this passage while I walked along the shore. But in a place infinitely more beautiful - in our soul. In this Mass, united in joy and prayer with these, our first holy communicates.
12:00 Do you love me?
12:05 And without Peter walking before us, we could think ourselves lost...That holiness and the true love of God is not possible because we've all failed the master at one time or another and we like Peter need to rectify our unfinished business with the master. Jesus asks us: Do you love me? We can let these words sink into our hearts, and let it hurt if need be. Let it lay bare our selfishness, and our divided heart, and our lukewarm love, because these words will give healing. Let it happen and then respond in honesty and love.
12:58 Through this question, Jesus wants to rehabilitate us by his love, to make us a sign of hope for others, and to equip us for our sacred mission in preaching the truth. Do you love me?
13:16 Lord, help me to love you more than my fears, more than my own will and desires. Help me to love you above all other loves in this world and before all other loves in this world to love you more than my own life.
13:38 Jesus, help me to love you more than these. Amen.