Do You Love Me?
February 22, 2022
I’ve always been drawn to love of priesthood because of the great task of assisting the Father in the salvation of souls. In college I was moved to tears reading about St. John Paul II venturing across the world to bring the thunderous energy of the Gospel to the people, and St. John Vianney laboring tirelessly for the sanctification of his parishioners in the confessional.
Both these saints drew thousands of people to Christ. As a former accountant and a big sports fan, I love to evaluate things based on numbers because numbers are often an excellent criterion for evaluating things practically. So when I read about John Paul and John Vianney in college, I saw no flaws and big results. So, I thought, those with fewer flaws will be better disciples. Got it.
Thankfully, the Holy Spirit gently drew me away from that false mentality during silent retreat. As I sat on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, St. Peter was on my heart a lot. Contemplating him in the Gospels, I noticed that Peter and I are both focused on practicality and results. In those same Gospels, though, are a full display of Peter’s flaws, stubbornness, impatience, poor calculations and fear. I found myself bewildered that Jesus even called him in the first place! When Jesus asks Peter to put out into the deep for a catch, Peter explains that he had just spent ALL NIGHT trying and caught NOTHING. At the moment Peter can come to the defense of the Lord, Peter denies even knowing Him. Three times! My practical self could only think, Walk away, Jesus! This man isn’t worth your time!
Though frustrated and confused, the Holy Spirit slowly began to reveal to me that Jesus was not primarily calling Peter because of his strengths, nor was Peter’s primary task to go out on mission. Jesus called Peter to know and love Him.
John 15 gives us a vivid description of Christ’s love of the apostles as the vine and its branches: “Without me you can do nothing. Remain in my love.” Jesus did not give His beloved friends a recipe for practical success, but a promise of love and fidelity no matter what. If they remain in the love of Christ, the mission takes care of itself. Everything will be laid out for them by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
What a beautiful truth! Yes, Peter was called on mission by Jesus that fateful day on the shores of the sea. But the first call Peter received was always the most important: to be loved by the Father, and to respond with love. That’s why Christ after the Resurrection asks flawed, practical Peter a single question at the place where He first called him: “Peter, do you love me?” The “results” of Peter’s mission were always intrinsically tied to that truth.
As I sat with these graces on the same seashore where another deeply imperfect man was asked for his love once again, my heart was filled with love and gratitude for Christ, and I want nothing more than to cherish His love and mercy for me in my heart forever. It’s quite likely that from time to time I will fall back into my practical and evaluative ways, but I pray that in those moments I will hear the same gentle voice of the Father calling me back to him: “Do you love me?” St. Peter, pray for me, that I will respond with love the way you did!
Archdiocese of Chicago