As a young adult currently in the “dating phase,” today’s Gospel immediately reminded me of a romantic relationship. I know for a fact that even now, I ask my boyfriend of two years, “Do you love me?” to which he replies, “Of course.” Yet, I do not stop there. I ask again, “Okay, but do you really love me?” to which he replies, “Of course I love you.” When I ask it a third time, he looks at me and says, “Veronica, you know I love you. Every morning I wake up, I choose to love you. Did I do something wrong? Is this because I brushed crumbs onto the floor?”
The same thing would happen if your child were to ask you. After the second time, and especially after the third time, you begin to wonder if you’re doing something wrong. You begin to think of all the times you messed up and wonder if this is the cause of doubt. You elaborate your answer instead of just saying “of course.” You think harder and you come up with more ways to express your love because you know in your heart that you truly do love your child, your spouse, your boy/girlfriend.
I think Jesus knew this natural reaction and used it so that Peter would justify and elaborate on his love for Jesus. It was not that Jesus was feeling insecure about their relationship. As Peter said, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” So, we are reminded that it was not Jesus that needed to hear the affirmation, but Peter.
At this point, Peter has already denied knowing Christ three times, before his crucifixion. Jesus has forgiven him, but now that Peter is about about to become the new shepherd of Jesus’ flock, Jesus must ask this again. In agreeing to feed and tend to his sheep, Peter agrees to taking care of all Catholics, for the rest of his life, until the end of his life. Everything he knows was about to change forever and Jesus wanted to make Peter call to mind all the reasons he loved Jesus. This way he remembers all the reasons that would make becoming a leader and dying for his faith, worth it.
So now, coming back to our own lives, I think we need to play both roles and ask ourselves, do I love Jesus? It may feel silly, but how often are we asked these exact words? In fact, it is rare that our words prove anything. Instead, it is our actions that define us.
The first time we reflect upon this question, you may say: Well, yes, of course I love Jesus. I am Catholic, afterall. I go to Mass and I can say the rosary. Yup, I love Jesus.
The second time, consider your response with more thought and vigor. Do I really love Jesus? Take a view at your life and your choices. Do they reflect your love of Christ, or do they show a denial of him?
Finally, ask yourself a third time; Do I truly, honestly, wholeheartedly love Jesus? Do my actions reflect my love of Christ, or do they show a denial of him? Am I like Peter, denying my Lord and Savior in public, just to escape my own persecution? If so, have I moved past the reasons I previously denied him, or is there something that is stopping me from fully accepting the Catholic faith? If so, what is it?
So find a quiet place where you can really reflect upon today’s Gospel and honestly ask yourself: Do I love Jesus? Because he is waiting for me to accept leading others in the Catholic faith, as Peter did. Do I love Jesus? Because he has already forgiven me for denying him. Do I love Jesus? Because he loves me.
Veronica Alvarado is a born and raised Texan currently living in Michigan. Since graduating from Texas A&M University, Veronica has published various articles in the Catholic Diocese of Austin’s official newspaper, the Catholic Spirit, and other local publications. She now works as the Content Specialist in Diocesan’s Web Department.