Do you love me, Peter?
Homily preached on May 1, 2022
by Monsignor Michael Deering
One of the Highpoints of the week for me is to preside at the Thursday morning Student Mass ... where our 440 Students, from PreK-3 to 12th Grade ...
gather here in Church to pray together.
Then, as the Students leave Church to go back to their Classrooms,
I meet them at the door to wish them well with a Fistbump or a Handshake.
Often times, the smaller children will spontaneously stop and give me a hug ...
and once one student does this, many of those behind them... do the same!
Well, I had a touching experience 2 weeks ago when a little child, perhaps Prek-4
put his arms around my legs and said, “I love you Jesus” and went on his way!
Wow! A case of mistaken identity for sure ... but if that little boy thought ...
that I was Jesus ... that certainly was a beautiful way to greet Him.
In fact, those were the perfect words to say in meeting Jesus: “I love you Jesus.”
Is there anything else you could you possibly say ...
that would be more meaningful to Jesus ...
than those 4 words ... “I love you Jesus”?
I don’t think so!
That little 4-yr. old boy knew exactly what to say to Jesus!
It’s a beautiful example of Jesus’ declaration in Matt. 21:
“Out of the mouth of babes you have brought forth praise.”
Yes, the number one thing that Jesus wants to hear from us ... is our love for Him.
We’ve just commemorated His great love for us 2 weeks ago ...
as we recalled how He suffered and died for our sins on Good Friday ...
and then rose from the Dead and opened the Gates of Heaven on Easter Sunday!
Yes, Jesus loves us! And what does He want? He wants us to love Him in return!
In our Gospel today, we hear the account of Peter ...
coming face to face with the Risen Jesus on the shores of the sea of Tiberias.
And what is it that Jesus wants to know from Peter?
He asks, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter answers, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
And then a second and yet a third time Jesus asks, “Simon, do you love me?”
Writing this Gospel, St. John tells us that Peter was distressed ...
that Jesus had asked him a third time if he loved Him.
Yet Peter replied, “Lord, you know everything, you know that I love you.”
Those were definitely the words that Jesus wanted to hear from him ...
and they are definitely the words that Jesus wants to hear from you and me!
… the words …
“I love you, Jesus.”… words that came so freely & automatically from a 4-yr old boy!
What do you think you’ll say when you get to see Jesus face to face?
Yes, we know that day is coming … the day we die ...
when we stand before Jesus to make an accounting of our lives.
I’m quite sure that Jesus will ask everyone the same question He asked Peter.
Hear Him ask you by name:
“Do you love me, Robert?” “Do you love me, Carol?”
“Do you love me, John?” “Do you love me, Laurie?”
What will your answer be?
Will you say, “Oh yeah, Lord, of course I love you!”
Those would definitely be the right words … but are they the truth?
Realize that you’ll be speaking to Jesus, who is Absolute Truth …
so you won’t get by ... by lying … there’s no way of fooling Him.
And you yourself will know the truth… as your whole life flashes before your eyes.
Will your life show that you really loved the Lord?
Will your life enable you to say, “Lord, you know that I love you.”
Some Theologians suggest that the reason that Jesus asked Peter the same question
three times was to overcome Peter’s threefold denial of Jesus.
(Recall that after Jesus was arrested, Peter denied three times that he knew Him.)
And so, before the Risen Jesus re-commissions Peter as the leader of His flock,
He gives Peter three opportunities to re-affirm his love for Him.
Now, if it’s true that Peter’s three-fold affirmation ...
was needed to overcome his three-fold denial,
then how many times is Jesus going to have to ask us ... the same question?
Because you see, each time we’ve sinned ... we’ve denied our love for Him!
So, we could be answering the same question ... a long time, couldn’t we?
Sin is turning away from Jesus … it’s denying we love Him!
Obedience is turning toward Jesus ... it’s showing we love Him!
From our own experiences it’s clear that when we love someone...
we certainly want them ... to love us in return.
For example, in dating … when a man or a women falls in love ...
their hope is that the one they love will fall in love with them too!
Love is a two-way street … we love ... and we want to be loved in return.
That’s how we live in love … when love flows both ways.
This shows up in raising a family ... where parents shower love and affection on their children ... hoping that their children will grow up to love them in return.
And so ... it makes every bit of sense ... that with Jesus’ great love for us,
that He would want us to have great love for Him in return!
Now, Love, as you know ... is much more than words …
loving someone has to show up in ... action.
If we really love someone ... we’ll not just say it … we’ll show it.
Earlier in John’s Gospel, Jesus says, “If you love Me, you’ll keep my commandments.”
There’s the action that will affirm our love for Him … that we keep His commands.
So the question is, “Are you doing that? Are you keeping God’s commands?”
The 3rd Commandment of God defines an important way we show our love for Him.
He says: “Keep Holy the Lord’s Day” which means to gather as His Family
in Church each Sunday ... so we can experience His love for us ...
and show our love for Him.
Are you doing that?
Are you following Jesus’ command ... to attend Mass every Sunday?
This is so important to Jesus! He wants us to stay united with Him & one another.
He doesn’t want us to wander away and be separated from Him.
That is why Jesus ordained His Apostles to take over His job of gathering and leading His followers to Heaven knowing He would ascend to the Father.
Today, after each of Peter’s 3 affirmations of love ...
we hear Jesus commissioning Peter as the Leader of the Apostles ...
saying: “Feed my lambs.” “Tend my sheep.” “Feed my sheep.”
The meaning of this is clear when we recall that Jesus referred to Himself as ...
the Good Shepherd ... and all of his followers as ... His sheep.
“Tend my sheep.” “Feed my sheep.”
And what did Jesus want Peter and the Apostles to tend and feed His Sheep with?
Tend w/ His words in Scripture & Feed with His very Self in Holy Communion!
In each Mass, Jesus gives us the Truth in Word and in Sacrament ... and so ...
when we come here to Church to receive these gifts ... it gives Him great joy!
Well, yesterday, Jesus’ joy reached a new height as 17 students at the 5 PM Mass
got to receive Jesus ... in their First Holy Communion!
How happy for all of those children!
How happy for all of us ... to see them receive Divine nourishment that will guide them to fall in love with Jesus ... to follow His commands ... and go to Heaven.
We Priests and Bishops of today have the same commission that Jesus gave to Peter & the Apostles ... to tend and feed ... all of you ... the sheep of His flock.
Please be faithful to His commands, by gathering in Church every Sunday to be nourished by Jesus. I implored the parents of those 2nd Graders to be sure their children have the chance to receive Holy Communion every week ...
pointing out that if they drove them to Mass every Sunday for the next 10 years till they’re 18 .... they’ll have received 500 Holy Communions ... and ...
they’d be well prepared to receive Holy Confirmation in 8th Grade!
When you bring your children with you to Mass, your whole family
will experience God’s love for them ... and they’ll fall in love with Him.
And when the day comes that your children get to see Jesus face to face,
they’ll be able to say as automatically as that 4-yr old boy, “I love you, Jesus.”
And should Jesus ask you or them a second time, “Do you love me?”
you’ll be able to respond as readily as Peter did and say,
“Lord you know everything … you know that I love you.”