I HAVE COME TO LOVE WHAT I DID NOT LIKE
I write this reflection while I am doing my annual retreat at Faulkner’s Retreat House. The Lord has granted me many beautiful graces that help strengthen my friendship with Him. I thank Him for all that I have received.
My friend, I would like to share with you one of my experiences during my retreat. It is: I have come to love what I did not like before the retreat, the passage of John 21:15-19 with which many of us are familiar. It is about Jesus asking Peter if he loves Him. Jesus asks Peter not just one time, but THREE times. What used to annoy me when I heard this passage in the past was that Jesus kept asking Peter soooo many times. I felt bad for poor Peter, who might have felt bad and hurt because Jesus did not seem to trust him.
But my friend, when I read this passage again for myself today, it changes my perspective completely. We know that Peter betrayed Jesus, his teacher and friend, three times by denying “I do not know that man.” Jesus died lonely on the cross after that while his friends ran away from Him. Now the risen Jesus returns to Peter, giving him food to feed his hunger, being friendly and loving to him again. What Jesus asks Peter is “abnormal” according to our standard. He does not ask “Why did you betray me, coward? Did you not tell me that you would follow me to the end no matter what might happen to you?” No. All that Jesus asks Peter is “Do you love me, Peter?”, for three times, just to remind him that love is all that matters. Love can cover and erase all sins, even a sin as terrible as betrayal. Jesus does not care about how much Peter has failed Him. All He cares about is Peter’s love for Him, no matter how limited and fragile that love is. When Peter answers “Yes.”, Jesus says to him “Follow me!”
My friend, this “love story” changes my perspective and attitude simply because I find my own love story in it. Let me honestly and truly confess to you that I have sinned thousands of times in my life. And you know what? Never, never have I found myself being asked by Jesus “Why did you sin? Why did you hurt me? Why did you break your promise?…” The only question I keep hearing from Jesus is “Do you still love me, my dear friend?” And when my reply is Yes, He then says to me “Continue to be my friend and walk with me, would you?”
This I share with you, my friend. Please rejoice with me !
Joseph Viet, O.Carm.