- What day is today? (Means you forgot an anniversary or birthday)
- How old are you? (If somewhere with a beverage you shouldn’t have at your age)
- Where have you been? or it’s variation:
- What have you done? (They know good and well, but now you know the stuff is about to hit the fan.) But none of those trump THE four word question:
Do you love me?
Those four words are guaranteed to send chills down the spine of every man, woman, young adult, teen or adolescent who has to give an answer. We know it is a loaded question before we ask it or answer it. If the person who is asking, doubts our answer, then nothing we can say or do really can prove it, can it? If we are asking, and we doubt their answer, they cannot prove it. There is a powerlessness in both the asking and the answering of that question.
But we know how powerless we are before those words in a different way, too. Deepest down, those are the words we want to hear – that one answer that makes all the difference in our world. I love you. But we know that words are cheap – that words can spill from lips without the backing of the heart. SO, we want to hear the other say the only YES that really matters. YES – I love you, not just with my heart, but with my life. When we ask that question, when we answer that question, we want to hear that yes in both words and in deeds.
I suspect that Jesus knows that about us as humans. And that he knew that particularly about Simon Peter. Because it is only after Peter told Jesus, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you,” – that Jesus asks him to feed his sheep. “It is not enough, Simon, for you to say the words. You must DO the loving. You must do the actions that speak the love in your heart.” And though it might have seemed harsh for Jesus to ask three times, especially in front of the rest of the disciples, it gave Simon the chance to reverse his three betrayals. And it gave Jesus the chance to impress upon his disciples AND US, that it is never enough to just say the words.
“Do you love me?” That is the feared question that our Lord asks not just of Simon Peter, but of all of us this Easter season. Then, be about the feeding and tending and loving of my sheep. Be about the actions that back up the words of your heart.
So, let me suggest one, very concrete way of doing that. Read the Pope’s new encyclical – The Joy of Love. It is a reflection on the recent synod of the family. It is meant to situate our human love of the family within the great framework of the Love of God. It acknowledges that families are not perfect – that they struggle and fail and succeed in various and sundry ways. But together, as a family, they are called to do the work of that foundational love that then strengthens them to be able to tend to all of the sheep of God’s flock. (click HERE to download the pdf)
Do you love me? Hear that question, not as a moment to strike fear into your heart, but as an opportunity to show, in both word and deed, that you do indeed love your Lord…
(at 11 am mass only) A final question to our first communion children. What did Jesus do for the disciples while they were out fishing all night long? What did he have ready for them when they were done? BREAKFAST! Yup, breakfast. Maybe not your favorite kind – fish and toast, but it was breakfast nonetheless. Because Jesus knew they would be hungry, he became a short order cook – and made sure they were fed. And then he told Peter to do the same – to make sure the sheep were fed. And 2000 years later, that same Jesus has breakfast ready for us, doesn’t he? Again, maybe not your usual breakfast – wine and bread – but food nonetheless. Why? Because he knows that we are hungry – he knows that we need to take in the food that will nourish us and strengthen us. And like that morning on the lake, Jesus is asking us the same thing he asked Peter – do you love me? So when you receive the Lord and get back to your pew, I ask you to make the same response as Peter – to say: Yes, Lord, you know that I love you…