How do we know God? Through Christ. “No one has ever seen God; the only Son…has made him known” (Jn 1:18). We know God by knowing Jesus Christ. The more I know Him, the more I know myself. The less I know Him, the less I know myself and the meaning of my life. After all, who can answer better than our Lord the most important questions ever: Where did I come from? What am I? Where am I going?
When you want to know something less than yourself, you have to do most of the work. When you want to get to know God, who is infinitely greater than you, He has to take the initiative and reveal Himself. That’s why there had to be divine revelation. Just like professors teach students, so God teaches us. How does he do that? By asking us questions. And what He asked Simon Peter is His all-important question to us?
“Simon, son of Jonas, do you love me more than these?” God revealed himself to us so that we could establish a relationship with Him. The most authentic purpose of religion, our religion, is to establish a love-relationship with God. God asks us, “Do you love me?” By asking this question God reveals to us what matters most to Him: our love. He also reveals to us what should matter most to us: His love.
If the question seems harmless, think again! It may very well appear harmless to us because our words do not mean as much as they used to. Do I use the word “love” all the time? Has it lost its purpose, like salt losing its flavor? If so, what can it be replaced with?
This is no easy question. It is the ultimate question that will eventually drive all other decisions. It did for Peter and it will for you. If you love me, then feed my sheep. Love moves us to act. Love drives our lives. It did for the Lord; it should do the same for me. Otherwise, what will it be replaced with?
What concerns do I have? What creates anxiety or sadness in my heart? Is it my sinfulness, a guilty conscience? Is it my weaknesses or failings? What am I afraid of? If the Lord called Peter, regardless of his human failings, why should I be afraid?
Jesus called Peter aside and asked him three times, “Do you love me?” The Lord has asked me this question too, often, more than a thousand times throughout my life! And I think it is now the right moment to take note that Jesus did not harp on Peter. The Lord never, not even once, asked Peter: “Why did you abandon me? Why did you deny me? Why did you do this to me?” No. Christ pulled his Apostle aside to tell him that his life still mattered; that his love still mattered.
I truly believe that Peter’s relief began when the Lord pulled him aside. Yes, right then and there! That gesture is so important. It meant Jesus wanted Peter by his side, like the dawn of man and like his first confession. Isn’t that how you can tell who your friends are? How they stand by your side during the most difficult moments of your life? How they treat you after your fall? The Lord did not hesitate to give Peter the keys to the Kingdom. He did not hesitate to pick them up, after Peter dropped them, and hand them over to him again. Feed and tend my sheep.
We want to be loved. It is our greatest desire. Christ poured out his love for Peter when he opened the door to Peter’s heart. Ask and you shall receive. Do you love me? Yes Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.
And still…Peter compares himself to others. “What about him?” What will happen to John? The curiosity, the comparing – this need inside of us to compare ourselves to others is just as strong in Peter as it is in us. It’s worse after a serious fall. Will he take my place? Will he remain longer than I? Is he loved more than I? Why do I compare myself to others?
Love does not compare. Love fulfills. “The Lord searches the just and the wicked…The lover of violence he hates” (Ps. 11). True!! But, He does not search to destroy; rather, he searches to find. There is plenty of evidence of that. Just look around. Here we are!
Love searches for the other to give what the other needs. In the Acts of the Apostles, St. Paul requests to speak to the Jews, the group that has antagonized him the most and is responsible for his chains! What does he call them? Brothers, my brothers! He calls the Jews “our people” and their customs “our customs.” He still loves his people. He makes himself and gives whatever he has to in order to share the Truth, the Good News of Jesus Christ.
To share the truth means to preach God’s forgiveness and his mercy through Christ’s life, death and resurrection; to free a man from his chains (the chains of sin) and restore him to his original dignity. This is the expertise of Christ. This is what the Apostles experienced from the very beginning. This is what the Church does best. This is what we are called to do. This should be our only concern.