In tonight’s Gospel, we hear Jesus ask Peter three times the question, “Do you love me?” Understanding John’s Gospel and the intent of his writing, we understand that the author of John’s gospel was not just speaking about a historical event with Jesus and his apostle Peter, but also to all readers. As we hear the question, “Do you Love me?”, it is not just being asked about our relationship with God, but also our relationship with others.
So often we doubt if we are loved, valued, or appreciated. So often we fear rejection. So often we feel unloved and unlovable.
Just as Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?”, we too cry out that same lament. As our cry’s echo towards no one in particular, we respond in kind with pointless and hallow ambition. We ask ourselves:
- “Do you love me bottle of bourbon?”
- “Do you love me meaningless job?”
- “Do you love me shallow girl/boy-friend?”
- “Do you love me college major that my family has forced upon me?”
- “Do you love me….?”
And sadly, as the bottle empties, the tasks complete, the friend exits, and the grades returned, we discover more often than not that the answer is a resounding no. Those things that so easily make us “feel loved” are never sustainable. The joy runs out. The wells dry.
As I walk the Camino I continue to ask myself, “Do you love me?”
Towards a God I cannot see and do not know: Do you love me?
Towards friendships and family I have left behind: Do you love me?
Towards the face in the mirror after past mistakes: Do you love me?
In the silence of the Camino, the questions are unrequited.
In the silence of my mind, the questions begin to wrestle.
In the company of my fellow pilgrims, the questions are resolved.
Scripture reminds us frequently that “God is Love” and that “wherever two or more are gathered, so too is God.” I believe firmly that the breath and spirit of God, of love, of goodness, is alive within each person. But, to be honest, I moreover often than not, doubt the same quality in myself. The Camino, however, is an opportunity to be in communion and relationship with others. To laugh, cry, cheer, and celebrate as one.
In those intense moments of unity, we neglect our doubts and questions and see the affirmative responses in the faces of others. We ask, “Do you love me?”, as we pass bread around the table. We ask, “Do you love me?”, as we pour water and wine into one another’s glasses. We ask, “Do you love me?”, as we moan over each delicious bite and drink.
Love can never be understood nor quantified and we will never feel secure with its presence. Yet, with love all things are possible if we simply follow the love example of others.