Third Sunday of Easter
May 5, 2019

Fr. José Maria de Sousa Alvim Calado Cortes, F.S.C.B.

Chaplain, Saint John Paul II National Shrine, Washington, D.C.

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In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Today’s Gospel tells us that Jesus asked Peter the same question three times: “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” (Jn 21:17). Jesus also asks each one of us: “Do you love me?”

When I ask children if they love Jesus, they answer “yes” immediately. However, when I ask adults, they usually need a few seconds. Many times there is a mixture of surprise and embarrassment, while they seem to be trying to figure out what I’m up to, followed by a formal response to an ostensibly rhetorical question.

We need to answer Jesus’ question with child-like simplicity.

To love is to be grateful for all the gifts we receive from God. Today’s second reading says: “Worthy is the lamb that was slain to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor and glory and blessing” (Rev 5:12).

"We love because he first loved us" (1 Jn 4:19). To love Jesus means to accept his initiative:  "It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you."  (Jn 15:16). It is to remain in his love:  "Remain in me, as I remain in you" (Jn 15:4).  To love Jesus means to recognize and accept his love for us:  As the Father love me, so I also love you.  Remain in my love" (Jn 4:9).   To love Jesus is not sentimentality. Sometimes we feel emotion and sometimes we do not. To love Christ is, first of all, the action of the Holy Spirit in us. As Saint Paul says:  "The love of God has been poured out into our hears through the Holy Spirit"  (Rm 5:5). To love Jesus is to allow the light of Easter to enter into our hearts: “[…] at dawn there is rejoicing” (Ps 30:6).

If we love Jesus, we experience gladness:  "I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete"  (Jn 4:11), Jesus' love transforms our sadness into rejoicing. As today’s psalm says: “You changed my mourning into dancing; O LORD, my God, forever I will give you thanks” (Ps 30:11–12).

Peter’s “yes” to Jesus is based on his experience of being saved. Peter loves Jesus because Jesus loved him first. In today’s first reading, Saint Peter says: “We are witnesses of these things” (Act 5:32). Before answering Jesus’ question, perhaps Peter recalled when Jesus saved him from drowning in the waters of the Sea of Galilee. Peter cried out: “Lord, save me!"  and Jesus immediately stretched out his hand.  Peter may also have recalled how Jesus looked at him after he had denied him: "And the Lord turned and looked at Peter: and Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said to him, ‘Before the cock crows today, you will deny me three times.' He went out and began to weep bitterly" (Lk 22:61-62).  Today's psalm says: “O LORD, you brought me up from the netherworld; you preserved me from among those going down into the pit” (Ps 30:3).

We are called to love Jesus above all things and then to love everyone in him. That is why Jesus responds to Peter’s declaration of love by telling him to tend his sheep (cf. Jn 21:18).

In loving Jesus, we fulfill our lives. As Saint Paul says to the Ephesians: that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God" (Eph 3:17–19).

Today Jesus asks us: “Do you love me?” May each one of us answer Jesus’ question in the secret of our hearts.

At the beginning of May, the month especially dedicated to Mary, we ask our Blessed Mother, through her powerful intercession, to help us to know Jesus and to love him.  Amen.

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