A reflection by Fr. Idara Otu, MSP, on the Third Sunday of Easter: Acts 5.27-32; 40-41; Revelations 5.11-14; John 21.1-19.

Former Scarboro missioner Estrela De Sousa with orphaned children in Guyana.

Former Scarboro missioner Estrela De Sousa with orphaned children in Guyana.

“Do you love me?” Jesus addresses this question to Peter three times, and each time Peter answers, “Yes.” With each “Yes,” Jesus commissions Peter to feed and take care of his sheep and his lambs. After Peter’s triple denial at the time of Jesus’ arrest, this triple question is an opportune moment for Peter to renew his love for Jesus. With these questions, Jesus communicates to Peter that love is the sum of discipleship. Love erases past denials and accepts future commitments. By saying YES, Peter is accepting God’s unconditional and unmerited love.

“Do you love me?” This question is also addressed to every Christian. Today, Jesus asks each of us over and over again, just like He asked Peter. It can be a frightening and tough question, especially when we recall our past denials and betrayals of God’s love. It tends to leave us wondering if we can ever be faithful to loving Jesus. Fortunately, Jesus is not expecting each person to reach complete perfection before saying YES. Irrespective of our weaknesses and our failures to love, Jesus accepts our imperfect love. Even in its imperfection, our love is enough for his service. All that matters is that we dare to love and be willing to renew our commitment to love whenever we fail.

“Do you love me?” Saying YES to this question comes with the Christian mission to love. The Christian action that follows is inexhaustible:

Do you love me? Care for creation.

Do you love me? Welcome refugees.

Do you love me? Tend to the poor and needy.

Do you love me? Work for justice and peace.

What else is Jesus asking of us today?

St. John of the Cross wrote that “in the evening of life, we will be judged by love.” Each of us hopes we can respond like Peter: “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you,” to which Jesus says to us, “Follow me.”

Fr. Idara Otu is a member of the Missionary Society of St. Paul of Nigeria. He is currently residing with the Scarboro Missions community in Scarborough, Ontario, while studying for his doctorate in theology at Regis College in Toronto.