“Simon, son of John, do you love me ?” (John 21 : 15)
Peter was not obviously happy with Jesus in the gospel of today. Jesus was asking him the same question repeatedly, “Peter, do you love me?” Jesus was quite aware that the word ‘love’ is one of the most misunderstood words in the world. So, when he was asking Peter, “Do you love me”, he wanted to make sure Peter was in the same boat of meaning with him, especially after the incident of Peter’s denial of Jesus.
Commitment and sacrifice are two most important elements in the meaning of love. Sometimes, when we claim we love people, we see ourselves not wanting to give ourselves fully to the person or always putting our own interest first before every other person or thing. As Jesus is grilling Peter, so he is also interrogating us today on the nature of love we profess.
Pay attention to this. After asking Peter the third time, “Do you Love me”, he said to him, “when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go wherever you wanted, but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you to where you do not want to go.” This is the core of the gospel of today. Jesus is saying to Peter that love involves sacrifice; it involves, most times, doing what is against one’s interest – “where you do not wish to go.” For example, you have planned to go and watch baseball game in the stadium. That’s your plan for the day. But your two daughters want you to take them to catechism class in the Church which, coincidentally, happens to be taking place the same time with the baseball match. Most times, love demands we make these sacrifices for those we love – going to places where you do not wish to go, but for the sake of love, we are going there.
Love involves sacrifice and commitment. A life of sacrifice without sacrifice is a contradiction. That is exactly what Jesus wants Peter and all of us to know about love. Peter never wanted Jesus to suffer. He was busy shunning Jesus whenever Jesus mentioned about his suffering and death. It was not what Peter wanted. It was not the path he wanted Jesus to go. That explains why he denied Jesus. He was not ready to take up his cross. Love involves commitment and sacrifice. It demands that we make decisions, sometimes, that is not in our own interest. It demands that we do not always put ourselves first. It demands that we deny ourselves some privileges for the sake of God.
The first reading of today says that is better to obey God than obey human being. That has been the rallying cry of all the prophets and martyrs when they chose what was foolish in the eyes of the world. Going to a place “where you do not wish to go” is martyrdom. Choosing to follow the will of God can conflict with our own will. Sometimes, it can correspond with our own will. The call of love is a voice we have to listen to.