Do You Love Me?
Third Sunday of Easter (C)

Antonio P. Pueyo
Reproduced with Permission

This is a good time to recall Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s poem to her husband Robert Browning.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints,--I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life!--and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

Many of us cannot write poetry as this famous couple, however, we may be able to reflect on ways by which we can show how deep is our love for the Lord. This is the theme of today’s Gospel.

Action starter: Feel the love. Say it. Show it.

The beauty of this Sunday’s gospel reading (Jn. 21:1-19) is better appreciated when read with the first reading taken from the Acts of the Apostles (5:27-32). These readings reveal the character of Peter the Apostle. In the Gospel, Jesus asked him three times, “Do you love me?” and three times Peter answered, “Yes Lord, I love you.” Three times too the Lord told him, “Feed my sheep.” In the Acts of the Apostles, Peter and his companions were confronted by the authorities because they were openly preaching about the resurrection of Jesus even when they were prohibited from doing so. Peter’s courageous answer was, “Better for us to obey God rather than men.” They were imprisoned for their convictions but they continued preaching.

Peter’s love for the Lord is not expressed in lovely poetry. It is expressed in courageous action. Peter was a tough fisherman. He was a leader. He favored action. Sometimes he acted before he thought the matter over. He jumped into the sea and tried to walk on water as he observed the Lord doing. He challenged his fellow apostles to go to Jerusalem and die with Jesus. He drew his sword and cut off the ear of one of the men who arrested Jesus. Like any man of action, he had his failings. He fell short of his brave words when he denied the Lord three times. He did not allow this failure to stop him from running to the tomb when he was told that it was empty and the Lord was risen.

To this tough man, Jesus addressed the question, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” What can Peter say? He knew his failings. He was not a man to show tender feelings and say tender words. He was much more comfortable with action and tough emotions. This man Simon Peter said the words, “Yes Lord, I love you.” Not once, not twice, but three times.

Peter did not leave us beautiful poetry. He left us the testimony of a man in love with the Lord. He offered his life.