Do you love me?
This little question is a tricky one. There are a whole variety of ways in which it might be asked and a whole variety of answers that might be given. It is not a simple yes or no….
Sometimes the question is asked more from a sense of insecurity than anything else. Sometimes the answer given is not quite the truth. Well, there is a rich complexity to the question when we hear it on the lips of Jesus in St John’s gospel.
Our Lord asks it, but it is clearly not a simple exchange. He asks it three times and with each asking of the question the atmosphere changes. Eventually Peter is upset, ‘grieved’ that the Lord should ask a third time, ‘Do you love me?’ What is going on here?
Remember it was Peter who had denied the Lord. Protesting that he would never do this, backed in a corner, too close to the fire, asked by a serving girl who had detected a strange accent, without any thought, he had said, ‘I do not know him, I do not know him, I do not know him’.
Sometimes it may be harder to say, ‘I do not love you’. But regardless of whether that response is honest or not, the implications are huge. Peter is dishonest: he does know the Lord and he does love him. How does he react: he wept bitterly….
And so after the resurrection as Jesus chooses Peter to follow him and be shepherd of the sheep and Prince of the apostles, he asks him, ‘Do you love me, do you love me, do you love me?’ It is almost as if this man’s denial, his lie, is wiped away as he confesses Jesus to be the one whom he loves.
Each of us is asked that question by the Lord. When we come to Holy Communion, before we hear the words, ‘The body of Christ’, in our interior selves we hear the Lord saying, ‘Do you love me…’. Can we answer, ‘Lord you know everything, you know I love you’. Sometimes this response needs to be an act of will. Remember, if love is only a feeling then we are on a course to disaster. So we must make this decision to love my wife, my husband, my son, my daughter, my brother, my sister, my mother, my father, my neighbour, my Church, my Lord.
The St Barnabas Society helps those who are hearing this question with regard to the life of the Catholic Church. If I love the Lord and the Lord is calling me to become a member of the Catholic Church how can I refuse him?
At great personal cost many of our beneficiaries leave their good and Godly work as ministers of other churches.
Jack and Sarah and their family in East Sussex will soon make this move. After prayer and discussion (especially among their four children) all six of them will become Catholics. Jack has been vicar of his parish for these last 7 years. Now he knows that the Lord is calling him to the full communion of the Catholic Church and Sarah and the family support him in that and hear the call themselves. The way you help the Society, by your prayers and your generosity will support Jack and his family and many others.
Please God Jack will be a priest one day. About 1 in 10 priests in the Catholic Church in England & Wales are former Anglican clergy. Many of those have been supported by the St Barnabas Society.
Let us thank God for the gift of our holy faith. For the Communion of the Catholic Church with our Holy Father Pope Francis. Let us thank God that he calls us in his Son to love him. And let us thank him that we can joyfully respond: ‘Yes, Lord, you know all things, you know I love you’.
Fr Richard Biggerstaff