This Week's Focus: "Do you love me"
         Click the link for John 21:1-19  


Dear Friends,

In this week’s gospel, Christ’s time on earth is rapidly running out. He has so much to do and so little time to do it. He knows that he’s leaving many extraordinary things to be done by a just a few, very ordinary people. And what are those ordinary people doing? They’re out fishing. It’s what they know best.

Jesus makes a humble, anonymous approach. Like any casual passerby, he asks how the fishing is going. And when they tell him they’ve caught nothing, he tells them exactly where to find the fish. They do what he tells them and they are swamped with fish. And at that moment they recognize this helpful stranger who has nature at his command. It is the risen Christ.

What better way to get a fisherman’s attention than to tell him where the fish are running? And now that he’s broken the ice, Jesus gets down to business. Job one is to get Peter back on the leadership track. Back when the going got tough, Peter had denied Jesus three times. Now Jesus gives him three chances to make amends. The symmetry of Peter’s denials and this subsequent affirmation of faith is striking. It tells us that God knows us and loves us in our frailty. Peter betrayed Jesus at the worst possible moment. And here is Jesus calmly talking and living love in its purest form… forgiveness.

The exchange between Jesus and Peter is a masterpiece of economical communication. Jesus succinctly poses the irreducible question that frames the relationship between God and man: Do you love me? Before we can address the question, we must consider: What does loving God mean? Cui bono? Who benefits if and when we love God?

All creation benefits from our love of God. But we benefit the most, directly proportional to our love. Loving God produces what economists would call a Virtuous Circle: a beneficial chain of events that reinforces itself, with each event passing positive benefits on to the next in a closed cycle that continuously strengthens each link of the chain and consequently the chain itself. The Virtuous Circle of love breaks the Vicious Circle of self-absorption, pride and the pathologies of vice that feed on it.

In this dialog, the always passionate Peter responds with heartfelt protestations of love; while Jesus serenely poses both questions and answers. As Jesus has told us, God is the embodiment of love: God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Jesus is not looking for lip-service love. The Good Shepherd tells Peter: Feed my lambs. Tend my sheep. Dietrich Bonhoeffer expanded on these imperatives, saying: “To abide in love means to have open eyes, to be able to see things that only a few can see, namely to see the begging outstretched hands and to help them, using everything one has.”

This Easter time Jesus asks us again: Do you love me? He’s not looking for artful expressions of devotion. He wants our love to answer him, not our words. Are you angry with someone today? Are you annoyed? Or maybe you’re just cool or uncomfortable with a neighbor, a co-worker… even a close relative. Jesus is asking you this morning: Do you love me…then love them. Don’t let pride or resentment stand in your way. Jesus never does. He loves us and forgives us… warts and all. He expects nothing less from us. Reach out in his love. Overlook neglect and insult. Forgive. Reconcile. It’s what Jesus does for us every day.

The Resurrection is not a spectator sport. We are not meant to marvel at the miracle from afar and respond with polite applause. It is our Resurrection, too. We are risen with Christ. We are here to do his work. In kindness, in caring, in generosity, in patience, in forgiveness… let’s do his work… let’s feed his lambs…  tend his sheep… rejoice in his love.

Alleluia! He is risen.    

God love you!


A Reflection for 
The Third Sunday of Easter
©The Reverend Canon David F. Sellery

Copyright © 2019 David Sellery, All rights reserved.

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