Friday, May 9, 2008

Do You Love Me More Than These?

The weather is getting better here for riding. I guess I should say it is getting warmer, which is better for me. Although it won't be long before it is very hot. One of my brothers in law who lives nearby rides all winter but puts the bike on the trainer for the summer, because the heat is too much. But if you get up early enough in the morning, it is okay.

Today I rode about 18 miles. The wind was not too bad and was coming from the Northwest. Still, it was not a cold wind, or even very cool. At least it was not a hot blast. During the summer, I console myself when I have to ride against the wind and it is slow going that at least I am getting cooled off a bit.

This weekend is Pentecost, so the gift of the Holy Spirit is on my mind. But more on that on Sunday. Today's Gospel is one of my favorites. When I read it, I usually cry. It is Jn 21:15-19, where Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him. Three times Jesus asks, three times Peter answers. Three times Jesus commends the care of His flock to Peter. Caring for the flock that God gives us is all about how we love Jesus. That is true if we are talking about the children that parents are given to guide just as much as it is about the activities of a bishop or a priest. Successful shepherding is the fruit of love.

Of course, Jesus goes on to tell Peter that someday Peter will have to suffer for the faith. Success is not necessarily about worldly success. We could look at the life of Paul. At first he seemed to get many converts. Then he was arrested in Jerusalem. Eventually, Paul ended up in Rome, where he had to give his testimony regarding Jesus. Although Paul successfully completed what the Lord had asked him to do, he was still put to death. Yet can we say that Paul was not successful? No we cannot. Paul was faithful and yet paid the ultimate price.

When we look at how we are serving God, our goal should be to love God with all our strength. John tells us that there are two ways of knowing whether we love God truly. The first way is, do we obey the Lord's commandments? If we do, that is good, but if we do not, then our love is not complete. The second way is to love others- family and friends, those whom we do not know well, even our enemies.

The love that Jesus questions Peter about, the love that Jesus is asking us about, is so important that it even takes the form of a commandment. Jesus says "Love one another as I have loved you." That is, we are to love with the love of Jesus, and not just our own love. That's good, because sometimes our love is weak. Sometimes we love (or not love) based on what someone has done for us, or how we feel, or whether or not pleasure is involved. Our tender feelings may do us very well in many situations, but they simply will not help us to love as Jesus loves us. Jesus loved Peter when He knew that Peter would deny Him. Jesus loved Peter when Peter was denying Him. Jesus continued to love Peter even after Peter denied Him. And Jesus' love was so powerful that Peter not only repented but was healed.

We are called to love Jesus with the same love that is present in the Holy Trinity, God himself. we are also called to love other with the same love that Jesus loves them. And for many of these, we have to love with the love of Jesus or we will never be able to love them at all. Thanks be to God that Jesus shares with us His power to love as He invites us to do.

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