Blog # 266 Do you love me
The Gospel passage proclaimed at Mass this morning, the feast of Pope Saint Pius X , was from the Gospel of John Chapter 21, verses 15 - 17. It tells of an incidenet that occurred some time during the forty days after the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead. After spending a frustrating night out on the lake without catching any fish. just after daybreak when they came ashore Jesus meets them though none of them recognized him as Jesus. He asks if they caught anything and they had to say no. With a promise they will find something, the 'stranger' suggests they try again and cast their net off to the starboard side.
After experiencing a superabundant catch of fish the disciples recognized the 'stranger' as the Resurrected Jesus. He has breakfast of fish and bread all ready for them but asks they bring some of the fish they just caught to be added to what he had already prepared.
After this comes the passage we acclaimed at Mass this morning. Through the years I have found the general interpretation and response to this episode in John's Gospel has been to see in it a revelation and reminder of the compassion of God in Jesus. Three times Peter had denied he even knew Jesus when accused of being one of Jesus' disciples in the final hours before the crucifixion. Peter must have felt terrible and deeply ashamed of himself after that. Now to assure Peter his sin was forgiven and to grant him the comfort and peace that comes from experiencing a share in the infinite compassion of God manifest in the humanity of Jesus, Jesus grants Peter the threefold oportunity of explicitly expresssing and proclaiming his love for Jesus. That is certainly a valid and adequate intepretation of the passage from John.
But this morning in my reflection in preparation for offering Mass it occured to me to see an additional and more practically personal application rather than an interpretation of the Gospel text. Rather than see the same question posited to Peter three times I saw it as three distinct questions each seeking dictinctly different information depending upon an emphasis of three different words in the text. The first question is: Do you love me? The second question is: Do you love me? The third question is: Do you love me? I found the experience of answering these questions this morning a very useful one and a source of special grace in my quest for holiness and spiritual growh.
Who are you, Charlie Hughes in my case, whatever name is yours for anyone else. Each of us is one of the more than seven billion of us human creatures on earth today. Each of us is known and loved individually and personally by the same Creator of us all. Think, it has to be in general but in some cases specific, of all the words you have ever spoken, all the words that you have ever heard, the miles you have walked and traveled, your family, the sorrow you have felt, , the loneliness, the joy you have known, the good things you have done and those done to you, your sinfulness and repentance, your faith and your persenal relationship with God, the hopes you harbor for yourself right now.
All of the thoughts that come to mind in such an experience identfy us, tell us who we are. There is only one of each of us in the seven billion of us, only one of you, one of me. I and each of you are each a unique person whom God has chosen to exist and through our life's experiences come to a knowledge and love of God and the joy of accomplishing our individual unique plan God has for our life. WOW ! We could go on all day with something like this but you get the general idea as to what my experience was this morning. Just keep remembering that in our imagination it is Jesus asking the questions.
Do you love me? What comes to your mind when you think of love? Can we love an elephant? Can you see any consequences for God our Creator in the fact that genuine love must be free in order to be genuine love? Can you see in the definition that you give for love the basis for the proclamation of Jesus that the greatest love a person can have is to laydown one's life for another? Have you ever experienced how this bears out in love that you have received and given, and in God's love in the love of Jesus on the Cross, the Last Supper, the Mass, and in our tabernacles? What about the question of experiences of sickness, suffering, and death? Are these experiences of love? Have you ever experienced all of creation, colors, shapes, sounds, stars, sand, sunflowers and the sun itself, all of it as God telling us I love you?
Do you love me - Jesus? Put another way this question asks us what is the content of our identification of Jesus. Do you believe and realize in practical terms what it means to believe that I AM the Eternal Word , not measured by age but present with and in the Father and the Holy Spirit billions of light years ago when creation was that much younger than it is today? Do you realize the Jesus most people think of most of the time is the historical Jesus who without ceasing to be the Word, lived a genuine human experience on earth for a brief period of time around two thousand years ago? Do you realize the 'person' referred to as the Word and the 'person' referred to as Jesus is the same 'person' ? Do you realize well enough the implications of this truth to make you stand in awe and adoration before the Resurrected Jesus now free of the human limitations he once knew as one of us in history yet present to us by faith as the Redeemer of the world and as the Father's gift to us as the source of our sharing through faith and Baptism his own divine life/love?
I think my desire to write a blog in response to my experience befoere Mass this morning was a concern I have that many active Christians, including us Catholics, do not have an adequate ongoing person to person awareness of the Biblical Resurrected Jesus in our lives and tend to think and relate to the historical Jesus and the story of his historical life on earth, which amounts to a remembrance of Jesus from the past and relating to us as one of us rather than identified as God with all of the power goodness and divinity we normally identify with the Father and the Holy Spirit. so that we could trust him as we trust the Father and the Holy Spirit, adore and thank him with the same adoration and thanks we are accustomed to give the Father and the Holy Spirit. In this I would hope we could come to a point of successfully overcoming temptation in his name, appreciating why our prayer is accomplished and fulfilled in his name and consequently render him more perfect praise and thanks.