If Jesus were to ask any one of us, “do you love me?” I’m sure we would all immediately respond with a loud YES, without a second thought.
But then, what if Jesus followed that up with a task, demanding of us something that was difficult? What is Christ requiring of us when He asks that question? What does it mean to love God? How do we demonstrate to God that we love Him?
In today’s familiar Gospel, we hear Jesus asking Peter three times “do you love me?” By the third time, Peter was a little peeved at being questioned yet again and stated very plainly, “Lord, you know everything, and you know that I love you.”
Some biblical scholars state that Jesus asked Peter three times to make up for the three times he denied Jesus. But others say that Jesus did not need Peter to apologize three times, but that Jesus knew there was a need for Peter to express his love three times.
So, this triple confession of love is a triple undoing of Peter’s denial.
When we say we love God, do we really mean it, or are we just saying the words? As in any human relationship, we all long to hear the words “I love you.” But is once enough? Don’t we want to hear this beautiful phrase over and over? God does too.
When we love our spouse and our children, it doesn’t end with just an “I love you.” No, we act on that love by caring for them, nurturing them, helping them in any way possible. Not one time, not one day, but all the time, every day!
God desires no less from each of us. Mere words are not enough for Him. How do we show God that we love Him? By treating our fellow human beings with kindness and compassion, seeing in each person the face of Christ; doing the will of God; practicing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
Just like Peter denied Jesus, we too deny Christ, when we sin. However, we have the opportunity to profess our love for Jesus by demonstrating an outpouring of remorse and a conversion of heart, in the confessional.
Let us make a choice to express our love for God in a triple way. Let it be deep, sincere, and irrevocable.
Lord, you know that I love you. You also know how weak I am. Help me to express my love for you in the way I treat other people — the ones I like, and especially the ones I don’t like!