Any Redemptorist priest or brother uses the initials CSsR after his name. These stand for Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer in its Latin form. But they like to joke that it means "congregation of the same sermons recycled." I don't think so. We are so blessed to have these fine priests gifting us with their presiding presence at Mass every day and with their inspiring homilies. Today Father Thomas Travers, whose homilies appear elsewhere on this blog, presented us with another gift which I share with you.
Profession of Love
by Father Thomas Travers, CSsR,
Rector Mt. St. Alphonsus Retreat Center, Esopus, New York
Jesus never has to profess his love for us...although he does profess his love and many times over...but he never has to do it, publicly with words, because his love for us is constant, consistent, faithful, without conditions. There is no need for words or professions. We just know that his love is there for us...and always there. We can sense it. We can feel it.
On the contrary, Peter had to profess his love for Jesus as he did in today's Gospel because Peter's love was not constant or faithful. It was a fickle love, a love that sent mixed messages. Peter said that he loved Jesus so much that he would always be there for Jesus, and then, when chrunch time came, he was the first to run away. "Though all these others abandon you," he said, "I will never abandon you." Oh yeah...tell me another one. (Or, as we used to say as kids: "Ask me no questions and I'll tell you no lies. A man got hit with a bucket of bricks the night before he died.")
Peter's love was a hot and cold love and because of this, Jesus asked him to profess it openly, publicly and once and for all...with all his bravado and loud voice. It wasn't for Jesus' sake that Peter needed to do so nor for the sake of the other disciples. No...it was for Peter's own sake. He needed to hear his profession of love loud and clear and in his own voice.
I had a spiritual director in Puerto Rico and he told me that when I came to him I would tell him part of my story and the purpose was not primarily for him to listen to me and get to know me and my challenges. The purpose was for me to listen to me, to get to know myself and my challenges. He explained that each time you told your story or part of it, you had to put it together and you would see it better. He believed that telling your story to another or to a group (as they do in 12-Step groups) helps us much more than it helps the other person.
And so today, Jesus gives Peter a chance to tell part of his story, his story of love. He wants Peter to see that true love is not a one time affair, it is not a loud protestation of "I'll never leave you," made after a little wine at a dinner table. He wants Peter to learn that true love is spoken out time and time again. True love is a consistent message from the deep part of a life.
And Jesus wants Peter to learn, too, that love is shown in deeds. And that is why he gives him the mission of feeding the community, the mission of tending to its needs, the mission of caring for its welfare. He is telling Peter that love is shown in deed and not just words.
And I think that Jesus could easily get tired of all our words, too. And I am reminded of the lyrics of the song from My Fair Lady: "Words! Words! Words! I'm so sick of words! I get words all day thourgh; first from him and now from you! Is that all people can do?.. Don;'t talk of love lasting thru time. Show me! Make no undying vow. Show me now!"
Jesus asks us today, as he did Peter, if we love him. He wants us to profess that love not so much so that he will hear it...but rather so taht we will hear it loud and clear in the depths of our heart and so that in hearing our profession of love clearly, this same love will move us to tend, feed and care for the rest of the communiyt, especially those in the greatest need of our love. AMEN!