Third Sunday of Easter

DO YOU LOVE ME?
By Deacon John Hackett

In our gospel reading today we listened in on the resurrected Jesus’ conversation with Peter after they had both just finished eating breakfast. [Isn’t that a nice touch…eating breadfast with Jesus!]  Well, at any rate, some folks refer to this conversation with Jesus as Peter’s Conversion. Others call it Peter’s Confession. Actually, Peter’s Confession is probably more appropriate, whether we understand confession to mean a declaration of faith or an admission of guilt. You see. It’s easy to see Jesus 3 questions: “Do you love me?” and Peter’s 3 answers of “yes” as Peter’s confession of faith in Jesus. But what is not so easy to see is how this dialogue represents Peter’s confession of guilt. To see the penitential aspect of what is going on here we need to read a couple of the words in the story in the original Greek in which it was written if we really want to see what’s going on. So I’ll try my hand at that in a couple of minutes.

But first, let me ask you this: Did you ever wonder why Jesus had to ask Peter three times “if he loved him?”   BTW, you might remember here Peter’s earlier denial of Jesus 3 times… But that’s not all. In English, when Jesus asks “Do you love me?” and Peter responds, “Yes, I love you,” it all sounds so well and good. But in Greek, we find out that Peter is not exactly responding to the same question that Jesus is asking him.

You see, in the Greek language, (the Greek Bible), there are three different words translated by the one English word LOVE. There is EROS love, which means a sensual, sexual, erotic type of love,. Then there is PHILIA love, meaning love of the likeable, the admiration and devotion we have for a worthy person or thing, such as love for a good friend, a brother, a love of parents, love for a hero and so on. Finally there is AGAPE  love which means a self-sacrificing and unconditional love. It is love for a person who may not deserve it and when there is nothing tangible to be gained. Agape love is in the will, totally in the will. It is a calculated decision to love.

As an  everyday example of agape love, (if you are a dog and cat owner as I am) think about the love you have for your dog. You know, dogs have this special way of lavishly returning affection upon you and being useful to you. But cats (on the other hand) are something else! You know the joke about the difference between a dog and a cat. A dog looks at his owner who feeds him, protects him, and cares for him, and says to himself, “He must be a god.” A cat looks at his owner who feeds him, protects him, and cares for him, and says to himself, “I must be a god.” Now, this is not a propaganda against cats. Actually, I like cats; I like my cat. On the contrary, it is a compliment to cat lovers for their selfless and unconditional love for these quite exceptional animals.  And so cats, by their very nature, serve to give us a wonderful example of the self-sacrificing and unconditional love we call agape love. However, the best example of agape love is not found in the cat-human relationship, but in the love that Jesus has for us, which made him give up his life for us undeserving sinners.

Well, back to the gospel story. And this time, as promised, let’s work on a couple of words in Greek. Jesus asks Peter, Do you love me? “agapas me? (i.e. Do you have agape love for me?”) meaning, “Do you love me in such a manner as to sacrifice your life for me.” Peter knows that he hasn’t lived up to this standard of love. He knows that he disowned Jesus in order to save his own head; even denied him 3 times. So what does Peter answer? He answers, “philô se“…Yes, Lord, I have philia love for you,” meaning, “Yes, Lord, you know how deeply I like and admire you…”Philo se”.

With that being said, we are already beginning to see why Philo se is a confession of failure? Peter is saying to Jesus, “Yes, I like and admire you, Philo se…but no, I have not been able to love you with a self-sacrificing love as you demand, but only with a philia love.” So Jesus asks him a second time whether he has agape love for him (“agapas me”) and Peter again replies that he has only philia love for him…philo se.  Finally, not willing to embarrass Peter any further, Jesus then asks him “Well…Do you have philia love for me?” And Peter answers “Yes, I have philia love for you.” End of the interrogation! Jesus accepts Peter the way he is. At this point, even his philia love is good enough.

The Peter we see here is not the loud-mouthed, boastful man who thought he was better than the other disciples. He is now a wiser, humbler man who would not claim more than he can deliver. Peter’s confession here can be likened to that of the father of the possessed boy who confessed to Jesus, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (in Mark, Chap 9:24). What Peter is actually saying in his replies to Jesus is:  “I love you, Lord; you know I love you Lord, please… help my lack of love.”

In ending, we often hear hymns that profess our love for Jesus. Think of: “O, How I Love Jesus” or “O, the Love of the Lord Is the Essence.” Peter challenges us today to realize that hymns like these only tell half of the story. The other half is that there is a part of us that does not love God, that denies the Lord when our life, our future or our well-being is at stake. Peter’s example invites us to bring this negative side of us to God for healing. So today, let us join Peter in his confession: “I love you, Lord; you know I love you Lord, please…..help my lack of love.”

I Thirst for You
By Deacon Mike Jacobs

Today Peter proclaims his unfailing love for the Lord and Jesus commissions him to feed his sheep. Jesus asked three times if Peter loved him, the first two being for heroic love and then Jesus settles for a friendship love. What this is showing us is that Jesus is thirsting for our love and is willing to do anything to get it, even unto death on the cross.  You will notice that in the first reading that Peter, facing persecution, proclaims Jesus name, the lamb that was slain and who rescues us from sin.  Peter’s love for the Lord is becoming heroic.

Mother Teresa wrote a letter to her nuns that captures the great thirst that the Jesus have for our love, I would like to share with you.

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock… (Rev. 3, 20)

It is true. I stand at the door of your heart, day and night. Even when you are not listening, even when you doubt it could be Me, I am there. I await even the smallest sign of your response, even the least whispered invitation that will allow Me to enter.

And I want you to know that whenever you invite Me, I do come – always, without fail. Silent and unseen I come, but with infinite power and love, and bringing the many gifts of My Spirit. I come with My mercy, with My desire to forgive and heal you, and with a love for you beyond your comprehension – a love every bit as great as the love I have received from the Father (“As much as the Father has loved me, I have loved you…” (Jn. 15:10) I come – longing to console you and give you strength, to lift you up and bind all your wounds. I bring you My light, to dispel your darkness and all your doubts. I come with My power, that I might carry you and all your burdens; with My grace, to touch your heart and transform your life; and My peace I give to still your soul.

I know you through and through. I know everything about you. The very hairs of your head I have numbered. Nothing in your life is unimportant to Me. I have followed you through the years, and I have always loved you – even in your wanderings. I know every one of your problems. I know your needs and your worries. And yes, I know all your sins. But I tell you again that I love you – not for what you have or haven’t done – I love you for you, for the beauty and dignity My Father gave you by creating you in His own image. It is a dignity you have often forgotten, a beauty you have tarnished by sin. But I love you as you are, and I have shed My Blood to win you back. If you only ask Me with faith, My grace will touch all that needs changing in your life, and I will give you the strength to free yourself from sin and all its destructive power.

I know what is in your heart – I know your loneliness and all your hurts – the rejections, the judgments, the humiliations, I carried it all before you. And I carried it all for you, so you might share My strength and victory. I know especially your need for love – how you are thirsting to be loved and cherished. But how often have you thirsted in vain, by seeking that love selfishly, striving to fill the emptiness inside you with passing pleasures – with the even greater emptiness of sin. Do you thirst for love? “Come to Me all you who thirst…” (Jn. 7: 37). I will satisfy you and fill you. Do you thirst to be cherished? I cherish you more than you can imagine – to the point of dying on a cross for you.

I Thirst for You. Yes, that is the only way to even begin to describe My love for you. I THIRST FOR YOU. I thirst to love you and to be loved by you – that is how precious you are to Me. I THIRST FOR YOU. Come to Me, and I will fill your heart and heal your wounds. I will make you a new creation, and give you peace, even in all your trials I THIRST FOR YOU. You must never doubt My mercy, My acceptance of you, My desire to forgive, My longing to bless you and live My life in you. I THIRST FOR YOU. If you feel unimportant in the eyes of the world, that matters not at all. For Me, there is no one any more important in the entire world than you. I THIRST FOR YOU. Open to Me, come to Me, thirst for Me, give me your life – and I will prove to you how important you are to My Heart. 

Don’t you realize that My Father already has a perfect plan to transform your life, beginning from this moment? Trust in Me. Ask Me every day to enter and take charge of your life. – and I will. I promise you before My Father in heaven that I will work miracles in your life. Why would I do this? Because I THIRST FOR YOU. All I ask of you is that you entrust yourself to Me completely. I will do all the rest. 

Even now I behold the place My Father has prepared for you in My Kingdom. Remember that you are a pilgrim in this life, on a journey home. Sin can never satisfy you, or bring the peace you seek. All that you have sought outside of Me has only left you more empty, so do not cling to the things of this life. Above all, do not run from Me when you fall. Come to Me without delay. When you give Me your sins, you gave Me the joy of being your Savior. There is nothing I cannot forgive and heal; so come now, and unburden your soul. 

No matter how far you may wander, no matter how often you forget Me, no matter how many crosses you may bear in this life; there is one thing I want you to always remember, one thing that will never change. I THIRST FOR YOU – just as you are. You don’t need to change to believe in My love, for it will be your belief in My love that will change you. You forget Me, and yet I am seeking you every moment of the day – standing at the door of your heart and knocking. Do you find this hard to believe? Then look at the cross, look at My Heart that was pierced for you. Have you not understood My cross? Then listen again to the words I spoke there – for they tell you clearly why I endured all this for you: “I THIRST…”(Jn 19: 28). Yes, I thirst for you – as the rest of the psalm – verse I was praying says of Me: “I looked for love, and I found none…” (Ps. 69: 20). All your life I have been looking for your love – I have never stopped seeking to love you and be loved by you. You have tried many other things in your search for happiness; why not try opening your heart to Me, right now, more than you ever have before.

Whenever you do open the door of your heart, whenever you come close enough, you will hear Me say to you again and again, not in mere human words but in spirit. “No matter what you have done, I love you for your own sake Come to Me with your misery and your sins, with your troubles and needs, and with all your longing to be loved. I stand at the door of your heart and knock. Open to Me, for I THIRST FOR YOU…”

“Jesus is God, therefore His love, His Thirst, is infinite. He the creator of the universe,
asked for the love of His creatures.  He thirst for our love… These words:  ‘I Thirst’ –
Do they echo in our souls?” 
Mother Teresa

Are we willing to open the door of our hearts to the Jesus, He is knocking, will we answer.

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By Deacon Don Griffith        

Having had some conversation with the the Apostles, it was a sign- an initiative of His grace- that led them to recognize the Lord.  Peter had denied our Lord three times, yet the Lord does not dwell on that.  Instead, for each denial, Jesus confirms Peter’s calling, reminding him of his mission, and entrusts the care of Christ’s entire flock to him, joining loving Christ to the care of souls.  This is in imitation of Christ, Who loved us so much, Who cared so much for our souls that He came down from heaven and took our nature and as both priest and victim freely offered Himself to the Father in atonement for our sins, and those of the whole world.  Sharing the Lord’s burning desire for the salvation of souls, and strengthened by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, Peter and the Apostles state that they must obey God rather than men, and boldly proclaim the Gospel, rejoicing that they suffered dishonor for His name.

         Having had some conversation with the the Apostles, it was a sign- an initiative of His grace- that led them to recognize the Lord.  Peter had denied our Lord three times, yet the Lord does not dwell on that.  Instead, for each denial, Jesus confirms Peter’s calling, reminding him of his mission, and entrusts the care of Christ’s entire flock to him, joining loving Christ to the care of souls.  This is in imitation of Christ, Who loved us so much, Who cared so much for our souls that He came down from heaven and took our nature and as both priest and victim freely offered Himself to the Father in atonement for our sins, and those of the whole world.  Sharing the Lord’s burning desire for the salvation of souls, and strengthened by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, Peter and the Apostles state that they must obey God rather than men, and boldly proclaim the Gospel, rejoicing that they suffered dishonor for His name.

There is a great deal of stuff going on; turmoil in the world. Even within the Church, it seems as though the Lord is asleep as the Church is being tossed about on the stormy sea and taking on water.  Outside the church, there are such things as violence against peoples of faith, those who desire to twist Christian moral teaching and label it as hate speech, as well as those who propose that the seal of the confessional is only sacred for some sins and not all. All these and more. Outside the Church and inside. In these trying times, the lesson from last week makes itself heard even louder- JESUS, I TRUST IN YOU. Let us not fear, let us praise the Lord for He will rescue us.

In the sacraments,  we encounter the Risen Lord, and with the grace of the Holy Spirit we are sent on mission to witness, in word and deed, the salvation offered to all people in the name of Jesus through the blood of His cross.  desires to dwell among people.  He Who has the words to eternal life, The Sovereign King of the Universe  is made present to us on this altar, and gives us His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity to nourish us and remind us, just as He did for St. Peter, of our mission to proclaim the gospel of the Lord and to strengthen us so that we may rejoice when we suffer dishonor for the sake of His name.  This we do because we must obey God. f

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