Psalm 103:1-2, 11-12, 19-20
Today Jesus tells Peter that he must give up his life. He must first give up his life in service to the flock of Jesus over which he has been appointed as shepherd. He must give up his life by never again serving himself. This is a kind of death. It is a very hard calling for us selfish human beings. Second, Peter must give up his life in martyrdom. After spending his whole life not on himself but caring for the Church, he will have to suffer and die for the faith.
What a hard teaching Jesus has for Peter today! And yet, how gently and lovingly does he teach it. “Do you love me more than these?” “Do you love me?” “Do you love me?” These words, in the mouth of any other would sound very needy. Any other person would only ask these questions because they wanted affirmation, but this is not any other person; this is Jesus Christ. He is not asking because he needs the love of Peter or anyone else. He is helping Peter to know his love more.
Loving God is the point. We were made to love God. Love is the purpose of our lives; it is the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. Jesus asks Peter “Do you love me?” in order to draw out his love. We know that Peter is right when he says to Jesus, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus does know, but Peter does not know how much he is going to have to love Jesus. He wants Peter to know about the love that is within him.
When we say, “yes, I do love you”, we commit our soul anew to love. It is not enough that love would be just silently presumed, it should be spoken aloud. This is an essential truth in marriage, and how much more do we need to tell God, who we cannot see, about our love for him!
Our love cannot merely be words; it must also be actions. If we love God we will feed his lambs and tend his sheep. If we love God, we will go where we do not want to go and do what we do not want to do, all for love. Words alone are not enough, but they are a very good beginning.