May 17, 2020
John 21:16, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Growing up, I have fond memories of my mother coming into my room at bedtime, tucking the blankets around my body, giving me a light kiss on the forehead, and then saying those magic words, “I love you.”
Dad was a different story. He was a kind, gentle man but a midwestern stoic as well. I knew he loved me, but we never said those words to each other. We would usually shake hands and tap each other on the shoulder with the other hand if we were feeling particularly affectionate. Some words just went unsaid.
How easy or how difficult is it to tell those we love that we love them?
I have always been curious about Jesus’ post resurrection question to Peter after he denies Jesus three times. Jesus asks Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Maybe Jesus is challenging Peter. “Peter, do you love me enough that you are willing to give up everything, a successful career and a steady job, to follow me?” Many believe Jesus is forgiving and restoring Peter. Christ’s forgiveness gives Peter a chance to wipe out the memory of his threefold denial. I subscribe to both ideas.
But I wonder…does the human part of Jesus need to hear Peter say, especially after he denies Jesus, “Yes Lord, you know I love you,”?
Father Ron Rolheiser says we must try to pray so that in prayer we open ourselves in such a way that we hear God say to us: “I love you.” After we hear these words, “something will be right in our lives at a very deep level.” There is healing, forgiveness, and acceptance of ourselves.
And, prayer is meant to be a mutual thing; it is important that we respond to the response. “Part of prayer is also that we, one-to-one, with affection, occasionally at least, say the same thing to God: “I love you!”
Think about that for a moment.
Think about all our long-term affectionate relationships. Don’t we always need to prompt each other to hear expressions of “affection, reassurance, and forgiveness,”? Is it good enough to tell a marriage partner, a friend, our children, or a significant other “I love you” just once? It needs to be said repeatedly with sincerity says Rolheiser.
Prayer is relationship and it is no different. As Rolheiser says, “Prayer is not meant to change God but us, and nothing changes us as much for the good as to hear someone say that he or she loves us, especially if that someone is God.” Rohr adds, “We become ourselves only in and through a process of mutual love.”
Quite often it takes suffering, death, or illness for us to open our hearts and express our love towards one another. As my dad grew older and his strength ebbed, hugs replaced handshakes and when diabetes began to ravage his body our farewell hugs were always followed with “I love you.” I cherish those moments and I am thankful for them.
But why wait?
May we hear from God and one another that we are loved and may we respond in kind. May the mutual love we share heal, restore, and unite us. May we lift our voices and sing “I love you!”
Blessings and peace,
This week, tell God, the divine presence, or someone that you love them.