Friday, June 6, 2014

"Love to be real, it must cost—it must hurt—it must empty us of self."

'The person who loves God cannot help loving every man as himself, even though he is grieved by the passions of those who are not yet purified. But when they amend their lives, his delight is indescribable and knows no bounds. A soul filled with thoughts of sensual desire and hatred is unpurified. If we detect any trace of hatred in our hearts against any man whatsoever for committing any fault, we are utterly estranged from love for God, since love for God absolutely precludes us from hating any man.' --St. Maximos the Confessor

Gospel Text: (JN 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.”

Many people suppose that when Jesus asks his question of Peter three times it is to balance out the three times that Peter denied him, but maybe it is more a matter of Jesus driving home his point?  

My own reading is that if we really love Christ, and not just in words, we need to care for the members of his flock in all their variety --- the ewes, the lambs, and even the rams --- and in taking care of their needs, whatever they might be. 

We must care for those who think they are poor and those who think they are rich, for those who believe themselves strong and those who are sure they are weak.  And those who are satisfied that they are serving God and those who don't care.  

We must go into their loneliness, their self-condemnation, their sin, their poverty in religious matters as well as physical ones, and their ignorance of God's absolute and unfailing love and forgiveness, and we must there touch their lives and heal them, nourish them, and be the Good News that Christ calls us to proclaim.  

A favorite hymn of mine says "They will know we are Christians by our love," an idea straight out of John 13:34-35.   Do we in fact love any and all of God's children?  In every circumstance?  Of course we do not.  

But are we trying?

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