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Do You Love Me?

  • June 3, 2022 (readings)
  • Memorial of Saint Charles Lwanga and Companions, Martyrs
  • Andrew Rawicki
  • John 21:15-19

    After Jesus had revealed himself to his disciples and eaten breakfast with them, he said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He then said to Simon Peter a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”

    Opening Prayer: Lord, you know that I love you. You know everything. You also know that I fall short of demonstrating my love for you, particularly in giving you thanks. Help me appreciate all of the many blessings which you have given me from your Sacred Heart, and let my praise and gratitude for your unmerited gifts naturally flow from my heart and from my lips. 

    Encountering Christ:

    1. The Love of a Shepherd: What a memorable start to the day the disciples had! First, they received a surprise visit from their friend who continued to amaze them with his defeat of death. Next, a shared meal symbolized a return of the intimacy they had felt with him prior to his Passion and death. For Simon Peter, though, the symbolism didn’t end with the final swallow of breakfast. Jesus asked him a simple question about their relationship, but inquired three times. The searing pain of his threefold denial of his Lord and Savior caused Peter to lash out. Jesus, though, was offering Peter mercy to replace his guilt. Furthermore, he was taking the opportunity to reiterate the driving force that our first pope (and any who would follow) would need to exhibit to shepherd his flock: self-sacrificial love. Thankfully, this virtue is offered to our religious leaders, and each of us, as a free gift. This gift, though, like those of faith and of hope, are given to us for much more than our personal consumption. Let us reflect: to whom do we need to extend self-sacrificial love today?
    2. The Smell of the Sheep: Preceding each of the three questions from Jesus, Simon was reminded of his humanity and his place in the worldly order as a “Son of John.” As a son, Simon was subject to authority. As a believer in the one God of the Jewish religion, he was also bound by the fourth commandment: “Honor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12). How could Simon Peter honor not only his earthly father but also his heavenly Father? The One who is our supreme authority asked simply that Simon Peter honor his vocation and shepherd his flock with love. Each of us, whether called to the vocation of the priesthood, consecrated life, or married life, must discern that call and attempt to humbly follow the will of God. As Catholics, in accordance with the
      Gospel we are exhorted to preach as we depart from each Mass; our vocation will necessarily involve shepherding with love and mercy those who are put in our path. “Evangelizers thus take on the ‘smell of the sheep,’ and the sheep are willing to hear their voice” (Evangelii Gaudium 24).
    3. Led Where We Do Not Want: After Jesus had reminded Simon Peter of his sonship and thus his origins, he provided a prophecy of Simon’s future. If Simon Peter was to follow the path down which he was being invited, witnessing boldly and courageously to the Gospel preached by Jesus, martyrdom would be his reward. In today’s liturgy, we memorialize St. Charles Lwanga and his companions. Charles spoke out against the debauchery of a late-nineteenth-century leader of Uganda named Mwanga, and fearlessly resisted Mwanga’s sexual demands of young boys in his court. For their bravery, St. Charles and his similarly bold “pages” suffered their earthly fates of being burned alive, but earned their heavenly reward of eternal communion with the Holy Trinity and all of the angels and the saints. Lord, I want to be “in that number.” Grant me the grace to preach and live your Gospel messages of repentance and mercy, especially when tempted to conform to this world instead.

    Conversing with Christ: When I hear your questions of Simon Peter, I feel the words working in my own mind and in my own heart. Do I love you? Yes, you know that I love you. Why do you ask? Is it not easy for you to tell? I am sorry that my love is so weak; grant me the grace to strengthen this love.

    Resolution: Lord, today by your grace, on this First Friday of the month, I will attend Mass and thank you for the many blessings that flow from your Sacred Heart. If Mass attendance is not possible, I will make a spiritual communion, and pray individually for my many blessings. 

    For Further Reflection: Watch this short video, which includes the testimony of an eyewitness to the martyrdom of St. Charles Lwanga and his companions. 


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