The Apostolate of the Laity

Waxing philosophical in communion with one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.

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Location: Portland, Oregon, United States

I am just a sinner who holds fast to the notion that every human being on the planet is the result of a thought of God.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Amas Me?

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." A second time he said to him, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" "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 grieved because he said to him the 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."
John 21:15-17

During the early stages of any romantic relationship, there usually exists a period of time where the issue of love gets heavily discerned. There comes a point where one finally lets one's guard down to profess to the other, "I love you." It's a risky and profound proclamation for if one does not receive in return an "I love you, too," the entire relationship can get thrown into question.

How interesting that in all of scripture, there is only one instance where this intimate use of the expression "I love you" gets used. And it happens between Christ and the rock upon which he would build His church, Simon, son of John. Unfortunately, the nuance of this exchange gets a bit watered down in the English translation so a look at the Latin is in order.

To give this some context, those who are familiar with Spanish know the way one says "I love you" in that language is te amo. It's a very strong and passionate expression usually reserved for couples in love. By contrast, if one were tell one's mother that he loves her, he would likely use the expression te quiero. It's still a term of endearment, but without the connotation of romantic love.

In Latin, to say I love you as those in love would do one would say amo te. This is exactly what Peter answered to Christ as recorded in the Latin Vulgate each time Jesus asked the question, Simon son of John do you love me? However, the first two times Jesus asked this question of Peter, he used a different form the word love. Instead of amo, Christ uses the phrase diligis me?, which would be more of a friend asking another friend of his esteem for him. It's much milder than amo.

Notice that the first time Jesus asks Peter of his love for him He asks, do you love me more than these? In essence Christ is asking Peter if he holds him in higher regard than the disciples who happen to be sitting around the campfire eating breakfast. In simplest terms, He might have very easily asked Peter, "Am I your bestfriend?" Peter's feelings for Jesus were far deeper than just loving a friend. He was ready to really give his all to Christ, his entire being, only now he possessed the fortitude he lacked in the courtyard of the temple where he denied Jesus three times.

Knowing that Christ knew of his love for Him, it must have been difficult for Peter to hear Jesus ask him this question in this way. And when he answers Jesus with the adoration of amo te, Christ doesn't say, "I love you, too," but instead asks him a second time with the less ardent, diligis me? Our Lord could have easily asked him, "do you love me like you love your brother, Andrew?" Knowing Peter's impetuous nature, one can easily imagine this simple fisherman near tears and full of passion when he answers the Savior's question with amo te.

And then, Jesus asks the question Peter longs to hear and yet that question grieves him deeply.

Amas me?

Christ is not asking Peter if he loves Him in the fraternal vein anymore, but rather there has been a shift in the conversation. Now He asks in the deeper and more intimate way. Why would this cause Peter so much sadness? Should it not have brought him joy that at last Jesus was connecting with him on the same level in this matter of love?

Perhaps the question brought home to Peter the horror of what he did when he denied Christ at the temple. If Christ had asked him before he was arrested in the Garden of Gethsamane, "do you love me?" most certainly Peter would have answered with amo te. His love didn't change. But instead of his heart being governed by fear as it was on Good Friday, now it was infused with grace, and that gift just might have allowed him to realize the full gravity of his offense. Any spouse who has ever severely wounded the feelings of his or her mate due to selfishness gains empathy for what Peter must have felt.

Jesus gave Peter absolution. After this famous exchange His command to Peter was simple, "Follow me." It was a command directed not just to Peter but to all of humanity. For the fact remains that wherever and in whomever one finds Christ, His question to one is not diligis me? Jesus calls for a greater commitment. Pray for the grace to hear the Our Lord asking His bride,

Amas me?

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Why is This Night Different?

"When your son asks you in time to come, `What is the meaning of the testimonies and the statutes and the ordinances which the LORD our God has commanded you?' then you shall say to your son, `We were Pharaoh's slaves in Egypt; and the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand; and the LORD showed signs and wonders, great and grievous, against Egypt and against Pharaoh and all his household, before our eyes; and he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in and give us the land which he swore to give to our fathers.
Deuteronomy 6: 20-23

This week, God's chosen people celebrate the beautiful festival of Pesach, one of the Shalosh R'galim, and commonly referred to as the Passover. While the festival celebrates the beginning of the harvest season in Israel, its primary importance serves to bring forward the event of the Jews exodus from Egypt. During the Sedar meal, the youngest child sitting at the supper table will recite from the Haggadah a simple question,

Why is this night different from all other nights?

It's a good question for Christians to ponder entering into the Easter Triduum. For Christ, who entered into a Jerusalem as hero this last Palm Sunday now enters into His final hours of his encounter with humanity as one of them. The word made flesh that dwelt among us now gets to experience the utter cruelty of Adam's descendants. Yet before He consummates this relationship with man by a horrific death on the cross, he gives mankind the most extraordinary gift, his very body, blood, soul, and divinity. He gives humanity the Eucharist.

And while such a gift came into the world in a vessel full of grace, Mary, Christ does the most humble of things and entrusts the perpetuation of the gift into the hands of sinners. Peter, mere hours after having received communion for the first time at the Last Supper and even a shorter amount of time after witnessing Christ heal Malchus whose ear he had lopped off in the Garden of Gethsemane; the man whom Christ gave the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, denies Our Lord.

And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, "Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times." And he went out and wept bitterly.
Matthew 26:75

How many of times does one weep bitterly over denying Our Lord? How often does one experience such profound sorrow for having offended God, not because one fears for the salvation of one's soul, but rather out of having disappointed a loved one so deeply? Does one bring a laundry list of sins into the confessional that get efficiently rattled off to the priest behind the screen, or does one bring one's wounded and sorrowful heart to Jesus for healing?

Why is this night different from all other nights?

The genius of God so often gets discovered in His use of opposites. For while Pesach celebrates the night God so intimately communes with the Jews in exile in Egypt, Good Friday reminds Christians of the day the incarnate God, Jesus, died for all of humanity. While every other night of the year, Christ in the Eucharist is found in the Church, on Good Friday the tabernacle is empty, the adoration chapel is closed. This night is different because Our Lord is not there.

For the believer, there exists a genuine sense of loss on this day. There remains a bit of sadness. True, Christ chose to die to redeem humanity. He didn't have to. God could have simply snapped His fingers and accomplished the goal. The goodness of this Friday perhaps lies in the realization of a Heavenly Father willing to humble himself to the point of death on the cross. That is not only good. It's beautiful.

Take some time Good Friday to realize the gift that has been given...the price that has been paid. And if one examines one's interior and discovers that one truly is not worthy of such profound love as demonstrated by Christ, do not distress, but rather rejoice. Christ was born to die for one's imperfections. Strive to repent out of love for His perfect act of love and know that His grace and mercy is ever true.