Since I was young, I have read this part of John’s Gospel many times. . . and I am still amazed at the power of a simple question: “Do you love me?”
The strange thing is this: the great commandment is “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind…” It is clear that for every person in our time, what is first in the believer’s life should be God, and our relationship of love with God.
But for those who had that unique experience of God, as did the apostles who lived with Jesus for a few years and had became familiar with him and his teaching, it seems that it should be easy to fulfill this command to love. It is precisely in that context that the question about love catches out attention. Why?
- As God, Jesus knows all things; so He knows whether Peter loves Him or not. He knows the answer of the question. Toward the end of the passage, Peter affirms: “Lord you know everything…”. Why then, does Jesus ask? Because sometimes Peter – and we ourselves – need to be reminded whom and what we love.
- Peter’s past actions of denying his knowledge of Jesus and his denial of being His follower placed his love in question. Yet this is not only a question of Peter’s love, but also of ours. Each one of us should reflect on this question as we look to our actions, because those actions do not always reflect our love. It is in this context that we need to be hear this simple but transcendental question: “Do you love me?”
Each time, Peter responds: “Yes Lord, you know I love you.” But once again we go back to the way we show our love. How can Jesus know this, if Peter’s actions do not correspond to the declaration of love? And here is the key to understand Peter, and also to understand ourselves: Like Peter, we can make mistakes, and do terrible things. And, like Peter, we do not act in that way because we do not love Jesus, but because we are weak, and sometimes, or even many times, in that weakness we forget the real object of our love: God. For this reason, after we fall we need to be reminded, we need to be reassured, not so much in the love that God has for us, but in the love we have for God.
As we reflect today on the gospel in our own lives, let us answer for ourselves this simple question: Do I love Jesus? And remember: Love is more obvious in our actions than in our words.