Third Sunday of Easter, May 5
When We Make a Concerted Effort in Declaring Our Love for Jesus, He Will Strengthen Each One of Us and Empower Us to Take Up the Work Which He Has Called Each of Us to Do.
“Peter was distressed that Jesus had said to him a 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.’”
Could you or I ever imagine ourselves being in the position Peter found himself – feeling guilty for not once, not twice, but three times denying Christ? We may not think about it very much, but every time we sin, every time we allow our own pride, our own ego dictate our thoughts, our words or actions, we deny Christ in our own way.
And what if our Lord suddenly appeared to us and, for each time we turned our back on His Love, He called us by name and asked us, “Do you love me?”
Yet, His questions to each of us would not be posed so as to make us feel guilty, but rather to help us realize how much our lives revolved around and was truly dependent upon our relationship with the One who loves each of us beyond all manner of human description or understanding.
I am sure that many of us can look back into our own pasts, and realize that there were probably times in our lives when we were not as close to God as we should have been.
Maybe we were too caught up in the material pleasures by which many people find themselves easily seduced – in a world, in a culture which has given itself over to hedonistic and relativistic thinking. Maybe our lives were once focused more on ego and selfishness rather than the good of the other and selflessness.
Yet, there is one constant that our faith teaches us – that there is a God who loves us more than we can ever possibly imagine, that there is a God who will relentlessly seek us out, until we begin to realize how much we truly need Him in our own lives.
We see this in our Readings today. Jesus’ questioning of Peter in today’s Gospel was not intended to make Peter feel guilty. And neither was it an ego trip for our Lord, for our Lord already knew, better than Peter did himself, how much Peter loved him.
Rather, Jesus wanted Peter to reach deep within himself and realize the depth of the love which he held in his heart for Jesus, how much Peter needed Him – in spite of his own human frailty, in spite of the denials which plagued Peter’s conscience.
Jesus questioned Peter at a pivotal moment, to show that Peter’s love for Him was greater than any opposing power that might try to keep him bound to the memory of his failures. Jesus wanted Peter to see that, while he would make mistakes, Peter’s love for Jesus could still cover a multitude of human failings – just as our love for Jesus can also cover a multitude of our own failings, so that we do not give in to despair and hopelessness.
This was probably one of the most encouraging interrogations anyone could experience! True, Jesus’ questions must have disturbed Peter. But, in the end, they actually helped Peter to restore faith in himself as a child of God and as a chosen Apostle. They helped Peter understand that, even in spite of his imperfections, he could still serve his Lord faithfully and fully.
And Peter and the Apostles served God faithfully, as we find in our First Reading today. For when questioned by the Sanhedrin and the high priest, Peter and the others responded, “God exalted [Jesus] at his right hand as leader and savior to grant Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins. We are witnesses of these things, as is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”
And truly, they were witnesses. For even though they all ran away except John, and all remained hidden because they were fearful for their lives, even though Thomas doubted and Peter denied our Lord three times – these very men walked with Jesus, ate with Him, heard Him preach the wonders of God’s Kingdom, witnessed His healing miracles, the calming of the seas, His walking on water, the raising of Lazarus, and so much more.
Yet, it was not until our Lord reassured them after the Resurrection and after the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, that they were able to truly comprehend what it meant to be loved by God, and what it meant to truly live their love for Him in return.
And our psalmist echoes the words which lie in the hearts of many who have come to truly believe in God’s Loving Presence in their lives, “Hear, O LORD, and have pity on me; O LORD, be my helper. You changed my mourning into dancing; O LORD, my God, forever will I give you thanks.”
For it is the Lamb who was slain who is truly “worthy…to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor and glory and blessing” – as we read in the Book of Revelation today.
In the lives which you and I live each day, in our daily activities at home and at work – in our thoughts, our words and our deeds, do we give our God the honor, the glory and the blessing which is truly His due? Do we find time in our hectic schedules to live the relationship with God which you and I should truly have – a relationship of love?
Or do our lives become so busy that our Lord oftentimes takes a backseat to everything else which we feel demands our attention?
My wife is fond of teaching our children and grandchildren, “Tomorrow morning is never promised.” In other words, each one of us should always make time for God – never denying Him, never closing the door on Him – but always leaving the door open, always inviting Him into our lives, always making Him an integral part of everything that we think, say and do.
Today, Jesus asks each one of us, “Do you love me?” even though he already knows the answer. You and I should welcome this kind of questioning. His questioning is to encourage us, not to make us feel guilty for our personal failings.
He only wishes to lift us up. He only wishes to support and encourage us in times of weakness. His only desire is to burn away any vestiges of unbelief within ourselves, any lukewarmness that may still linger, with the Fire of His own Love – a Love which will create an even deeper love for Him within our own hearts.
For His Love invites each one of us to open ourselves up to His Loving Presence in our lives, not just in the peaceful moments we may have in a Church environment, but in the busyness of our everyday lives, in those moments when we are filled with anxiety and frustration, those moments when we are feeling anything but peace and happiness.
For it is then when we truly need God the most; it is then when we truly need to recognize that we must let go and let God take over. It is then when we must, in humility, realize that we have no real control over how our lives are impacted by the world in which we live. It is then when we need to begin to ask Jesus to take the wheel, to take control of our lives, for He is the only One who can truly lead us to the peace which we each desire and so deeply yearn.
Today, let us welcome Jesus into our hearts, so that He can expand our capacity to love. Let us welcome Him into our minds and our souls so that we may be guided to be more Christ-like in our every thought, word and deed.
Yes, we will continue to make mistakes, for no one is sinless. But when we make a concerted effort in declaring our love for Jesus, He will strengthen each one of us and empower us to take up the work which He has called each of us to do.
Then our love for Him will become the visible proof that His Kingdom truly has come on Earth within each one of us!
“Do you love me?” Jesus asks you and me. “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Then we will hear Him say to us, “Follow me, and inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
May God bless you, God love you, and may God always keep you. †
Please Comment, Like and Share, and Suggest to your Facebook friends – to spread the message of God’s Merciful Love.
Por favor Comente, Le Gusta y Comparta, y Sugiera a tus amigos en Facebook – en difundir el mensaje del Misericordioso Amor de Dios.
Scripture for the Day
- “[Jesus] said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was distressed that Jesus had said to him a 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.’” (John 21:17)
- “Blessed the man who sets his security in the LORD, who turns not to the arrogant or to those who stray after falsehood.” (Psalm 40:5)
- “Hear, O LORD, have mercy on me; LORD, be my helper. You changed my mourning into dancing; you took off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness…O LORD, my God, forever will I give you thanks.” (Psalm 30:11-12, 13b)
- “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16-17)
- “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, on your own intelligence do not rely; In all your ways be mindful of him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
- “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be firm, steadfast, always fully devoted to the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)
- “I delight to do your will, my God.” (Psalm 40:9a)
- “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor and glory and blessing.” (Revelation 5:12b)
- “…the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’” (Matthew 25:34)
Prayer for the Day
Who are the Light of the minds that know You,
the joy of the hearts that love You,
and the strength of the wills that serve You.
“Grant us so to know You, that we may truly love You,
and so to love You that we may fully serve You,
Whom to serve is perfect freedom,
in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”Saint Augustine of Hippo