|Memorial of St. Justin
Psalms 103:1-2, 11-12, 19-20
ďDo you love me?Ē Itís funny, this question more than any other I can think of, goes to the very heart of who we are. Itís a question we all ask of another human being sooner or later and, more often then not, wait in some anticipation, if not anxiety, about the belovedís response. If the beloved other says, ďNo,Ē or even just hesitates a little, we can be devastated. With such simple but profound questions life is given or renewed and life as we have known it, is taken away. Now, imagine God putting Godís self in that situation in the person of Jesus. That is really what happens in todayís gospel reading; God, in Jesus, puts Godís own heart at risk.
Such questions seem to admit no complications, brook no prolix responses; indeed we suspect weíre getting the run-around if the beloved takes too long in answering this fundamental inquiry into the quality of the bond.
So, why does Jesus ask Peter this question three times? What is God up to, working in the heart of Jesus? Peter gives straightforward, simple answers to Jesusí question. Indeed, Peterís answer is almost as short as the question, ďYes, Lord, you know I love you.Ē
I think part of the reason Jesus asks three times is found a little
earlier in the Gospel of John, that is, in the eighteenth chapter.
Remember? Peter denies being a companion of Jesus three times when
confronted by people who would betray him to the authorities. So,
itís not just neat symmetry and good writing at stake here. Rather,
Jesus goes to the heart of Peter and to his greatest mistake. There,
in that tender and vulnerable spot, Jesus speaks of love and asks Peter
simply to renew their profound friendship three times. It is
not that Jesus doubts Peterís sincerity; itís that Jesus wants to heal
the tear between them. Peter grieves that Jesus must ask three times,
but catches on soon enough; the healing and renewal must go as deep as
the laceration and hurt.
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