THEME: Do You Love Me?

BY: Fr. Gerald Musa



Ask any of your loved ones the question, “Do you love me?” and observe the countenance on the person’s face or the response you get. Most often the question is followed by other related questions such as “How much do you love me?” “Why do you love me?” or “Can you prove your love for me?” The question “Do you love me?” is certainly a short, deep, central, and essential question that requires a reflective and honest response.

Jesus spent his whole life expressing love in different ways. He expressed love in his incarnation when he came to live in the world; he expressed love to people who were in dire need (For example, at the Wedding at Cana, in the multiplication of food for the crowd, in raising the only child of a widow, etc.); he eloquently expressed the language love in his ministry to the sick and sinners; furthermore, he expressed the ultimate love by laying down his life to redeem his people. He taught his disciples, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13).

After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples several times to rebuild their faith, strengthen their love and renew their hope. They were almost frustrated and depressed after his death and had gone back to their former trade of fishing. To revive their spirit, He breathed the Holy Spirit in the Apostles and commissioned them to go forth and be ministers of mercy. More still, he saw the need to entrust Peter with the mantle of leadership. Jesus needed a leader who had the strength, courage, and capacity to love God wholeheartedly. Jesus saw Peter as a potential leader and so asked Peter three times: “Do you love me?” First, he asked: “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He asked the second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 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.” Peter was called to learn how to take care of the sheep in the same way that God does. In his role as Shepherd of Israel, God demonstrated tender loving care and he expressed it thus: “When Israel was a child, I loved him… I took them up in my arms… I led them with cords of compassion, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them” (Hos 11:1, 3-4). Therefore, Jesus wanted to make Peter know that pastoral care of the flock requires total commitment. More so, Jesus invited Peter to grow in his capacity to love and to be aware that love requires nothing less than giving everything for the sake of the beloved. Peter had denied Jesus three times and so Jesus wanted him to re-affirm his love three times.

After Pentecost Peter and the rest of the Apostles received power and grace to proclaim the Good News fearlessly. When the Sanhedrin ordered them to stop speaking and teaching in the name of Jesus, they responded courageously saying, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts of the Apostles 5:29). When Peter became the leader of the Church, his love for Jesus intensified and that love led him to shed his blood like that of his Master Jesus, the lamb that was slain (Revelation 5:12).

Jesus expects each of us to grow in our capacity to love. St. Augustine expressed regret for not responding to God’s love early enough. In his confession, he wrote: “Late have I loved you, O Beauty so ancient and so new. Late have I loved you! …You shone your Self upon me to drive away from my blindness. You breathed your fragrance upon me… and in astonishment, I drew my breath…now I pant for you! I tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst for you. You touched me! – And I burn to live within your peace. ”

We all have a common vocation to love. In his exhortation on love entitled Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love) Pope Francis says, “We are called to bear witness to the Gospel of God’s love” (71). For the Apostle Paul, the language of love is patience and kindness (See 1 Corinthians 13:4-7). “What establishes preeminence in the Christian community is not office, title, or territory, not the charismatic gifts of tongues, healing or inspired preaching, but only our response to Jesus’ question ‘Do you love Me?’ “ says, Brennan Manning. Our love for Jesus Christ comes before serving Him. No one can serve him faithfully and fervently if His heart is not aflame with an authentic love for Him. Love of God and love of Jesus are not mere lip service but goes with making sacrifices. It is easy to fall in love, yet only people who remain faithful in love are considered great. It is easy to declare love, but it requires a commitment to translate love into action. Jesus is asking you, “Do you love me?”

3rd Sunday of Easter; Acts 5:27-32.40-41; Revelation 5:11-14; John 21:1-19

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