DO YOU LOVE ME?
This question that the Risen One directs to Peter reminds all of us who call ourselves believers that the vitality of our faith isn’t a matter of intellectual comprehension, but of love for Jesus Christ.
It’s the love that allows Peter to enter into a living relationship with the risen Christ and that can introduce us all to the Christian mystery. The one who doesn’t love can scarcely «understand» something about the Christian faith.
We mustn’t forget that love springs forth in us when we begin to open ourselves to another person in an attitude of trust and self-giving that always goes further than reasons, proofs and demonstrations. In some way, to love is always to «venture» into the other.
That’s what happens also in Christian faith. I have reasons that invite me to believe in Jesus Christ. But if I love him, it’s not ultimately for those facts that researchers provide me with or for the explications that theologians offer me, but because he awakens in me a radical trust in his person.
But there’s something more. When we really love a concrete person, we think about them, seek them out, listen to them, feel them near. In some way, all our life remains touched and transformed by them, by their life and their mystery.
Christian faith is «an experience of love». That’s why to believe in Jesus Christ is much more that «to accept truths» about him. We truly believe when we experience that he is being changed into the center of our thinking, our loving and all our living. A theologian who was seldom accused of frivolity like Karl Rahner didn’t hesitate to affirm that we can only believe in Jesus Christ «in the supposition that we want to love him and have the courage to embrace him».
This love for Jesus doesn’t repress or destroy our love for people. On the contrary, it’s exactly that which can give love its true depth, freeing it from mediocrity and lies. When we live in communion with Christ it’s much easier to discover that what we call «love» often isn’t anything but the «feeling and calculating selfishness» of someone who knows how to skillfully behave without ever risking loving with compete generosity.
The experience of our love for Christ can give us strength to love even without ever expecting any gain, or strength to renounce – at least sometimes – the small advantages we get from better serving the one who needs us. Maybe something truly new would be produced in our lives if we were capable of listening sincerely to the question of the Risen One: «And you, do you love me?».
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf