In the classic stage performance and movie Fiddler On The Roof, we hear Tevye ask Golde this question. (Click here to listen) Do you love me? And when asked the question Golde seems to give Tevye a trivial answer, at one point in fact she tries to dodge the real question with this response:
Do I love you?
For twenty five-five years I’ve washed your clothes
Cooked your meals, cleaned your house
Given you children, milked the cow
After twenty-five years, why talk about love right now?
But Tevye keeps digging deeper for the real answer, “But do you love me?”, and finally at the conclusion of the song Golde says: “I suppose I do” to which Tevye responds, “Then I suppose I love you to.”
Jesus asked Peter that same question. It was perhaps the most important question that Peter would ever have to answer. The question is both simple and yet profound. Jesus also repeated the question over and over digging for the real response. We read in John 21:15-17
“When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter,”Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He then said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to 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.”
Of course we all know that that Jesus asks us that same question. Like Peter this is also the most important question we will ever have to answer. Do we love Him? How do we respond?
In order to answer the question perhaps we need to dig deeper to understand what Jesus means by love. In Mt 22:37-38 we read:
“He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment.”
Take note that each time after asking Peter the question, “Do you love me”, he also gave Peter a command by telling him to feed His sheep. After Jesus calls us to love Him He gives us a command as well. He calls us to observe His commandments. He said In John 14:21:
“Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and reveal myself to him.”
The “Ideal Talk” is the very first talk given on a Cursillo weekend. In the Ideal talk we are told that wherever we spend our time, and our thoughts and our money there is our ideal. So I ask you this, is loving Jesus your ideal? Do a quick introspection and check out where you spend your time, thoughts and money. How much time do you spend with Him? Are your thoughts throughout the day focused on Him? Does the way you spend your money reflect a love of Him? Do we in fact keep all of His commands or rather do we pick and choose what commands we want to follow?
In order to love Jesus we must know him. To know him we must spend time in study and prayer. St. Jerome said, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” You can’t move forward without knowing Christ. And you can’t really know Christ until you spend time with him. Prayer is conversation with God, listening to God, and just being with God. Prayer is essential to the Christian life. Your soul cannot grow close to Christ if you never spend time with Him in prayer.
If we truly love Jesus with all of our heart, soul and mind we will want to follow Him. In Matthew 16: 24-25 it says:
“Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
What is it that is getting in our way of a more perfect love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? Let us deny ourselves so that we can begin today to love Him with all of our heart our soul and our mind.
Dear Jesus throughout our day today and throughout this week, please keep the words, “Do you Love Me?” echoing over and over and over in our hearts and minds, and help our response as is evidenced in our actions, be like Peter’s, as we say “yes Lord you know I love you”. Amen.