From a Creighton Student's Perspective
May 25, 2012
Junior, Theology and Classical & Near Eastern Civilizations Majors
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus asks Simon Peter three times if he loves him, and each time that Peter responds, Jesus answers with the command to tend his sheep. This must have been incredibly frustrating for Peter. First, this conversation takes place after Jesus performs a miracle in which the disciples catch so many fish that the nets begin to break, and Peter jumps into the aquamarine Sea of Galilee to swim ashore in order to reach the Lord more quickly. Peter was probably still drenched from jumping into the sea, yet here the Lord is, asking him if he loves him. Second, Peter is a fisherman, not a shepherd. To be asked to take care of sheep would have been a strange request for a fisherman. Third, each time that Peter tells the Lord that he loves him, Jesus responds with a strange and somewhat ambiguous comment about sheep. This is not the way that one would prefer a conversation over personal and important concepts such as love to go.
The Gospel writer tells us that Peter is not frustrated with the strange responses, but rather is hurt that Jesus keeps asking him. Peter understood what Jesus was talking about, perhaps not in full, but at least to some degree. He had the wonderful opportunity to hear the Lord asking him directly if he loved him and was able to respond to his face. We, however, do not always find this luxury in our daily lives. Rather than answer Jesus with a confused “you know that I love you,” we often times do not even hear Jesus asking us if we love him. Instead, we focus on our lives, often times thinking that we are praising God with our lives. How infrequently we simply say, “I love you, Jesus!” Such a simple and honest phrase it is, and yet so strangely foreign. We just assume that Jesus ‘knows that we love him,’ even though we do not often say it out loud. And, in that, we are right; he knows that we love him. But, just as Simon Peter was hurt when Jesus kept asking if he loved him, would it not be hurtful for Jesus if Peter had simply remained quiet while Jesus kept asking a fourth, a fifth, or even a hundredth time? Jesus keeps coming to us, saying, “I love you. Do you love me?” Let’s take this summer to reflect on that question so that every time an opportunity comes our way in which Jesus asks us “do you love me,” we can respond not silently, but in the same way as Peter: “Lord, you know that I love you.”
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