III Sunday of Easter
5 May 2019
Have you ever been criticized, mocked, bullied, or ridiculed for something you cared deeply about? People can be awfully mean to one another criticizing family, work, even sometimes things as trivial as the sports teams we support … What about when it comes to faith? Have you ever been attacked because you go to church or because you spoke up about your beliefs, values, and morals? I can tell you as a person who experienced ridicule that it hurts … words can be very hurtful to someone. So why bother bringing it up? Why bother talking politics, work, sports … faith … when I am just going to get tormented?
But that didn’t stop the Apostles from speaking up in the face of the civil and religious authorities of their time. They are more concerned about their judge’s spiritual health, that they understand the message of Christ than about their own safety. Here, in the Church’s earliest beginnings shows us how the Apostles have begun to love and serve God without counting the cost.
This too is at the heart of Jesus’ question to Peter on seashore – “do you love me more than these?” The first in a series of questions on Peter’s love for Jesus – thus undoing his threefold denial by threefold confession of love. What could “more than these” mean? Perhaps pointing to the other Apostles – could Peter put his love for Jesus above them? Could he let go of his fear and be bold enough to proclaim the message of Christ? That which is the most interesting is the use of the Greek term for ‘love’. Here Jesus uses the term ‘agape’ but Peter responds with the term ‘philio’. In questioning Peter, Jesus calls him to higher order of love, to place Him above all else, to not be afraid … yet Peter obviously is telling him where he is at … and in the last round of questioning Jesus meets Peter where he is and uses the term ‘philio’.
What if we were to put ourselves on the seashore … Jesus looks intently at us, into our eyes and asks: “do you love me more than these?” What would the “these” be in our lives? Would we be able to set aside the potential of being ridiculed or attacked in order to speak boldly about our faith, could we begin to pursue God in our lives – making prayer, sacrifice, service, virtue a priority of our lives… could we begin to love and serve without counting the cost … without fear of mockery?
We may be weak, we may not always have the courage we need to share our faith, to invite someone to Mass, or offer to pray for someone or even to pray daily ourselves … Yet 2 things are to be understood… the first is that even in the midst of weakness, Jesus invites us to love Him, to serve Him above all else, He calls us to higher order of love … and secondly, He meets us. He meet us where are at in faith … not to leave us there, but to pull us up, to elevate our faith… to lead us to the place where we will have the courage we need to love and serve without counting the cost.
There will always be people who are indifferent, hostile to faith … people who abandon God and faith-filled lives … And we may be weak but we cannot let the weakness take over … we need courage that bears witness to the powerful nature of love, of the love of God … a love that confers goodness on others.