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A Reflection for Friday of the Seventh Week of Easter

Find today’s readings here.

Jesus then said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” (Jn 21:16)

When was the last time you told Jesus you loved him?

Huh!? What do you mean?

I mean, when last did you actually say, “Jesus, I love you.”

It may seem odd to affirm our love for Jesus in such an explicit way, but I think it’s an essential act that we need to practice consistently if we want to grow in our faith and intimacy with Jesus.

Years ago, if you had asked me if I’d ever told Jesus I loved him, I might have echoed Peter’s response in today’s Gospel, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Yet, I’ve since learned that merely thinking about our love for Jesus isn’t enough. We need to express it personally—even aloud—in the intimacy of our prayers.

Think about it. If you love someone but never verbally express it, even periodically throughout your relationship, how would they know?

Jesus became human for us, thereby enabling us to relate to God as we do in our relationships with our fellow human beings. After all, love on earth is the only tangible form of love we comprehend. Without envisioning a personal relationship with Jesus, the love of God can seem abstract, distant and idealistic. Jesus is reminding Peter that the love they share is real and tangible.

A concern I often hear people voice in the context of their spiritual life is, “I want a personal relationship with God.” Sometimes they even say, “I want intimacy with God.” It’s a concern I share, and one I asked my spiritual director about when I was discerning my vocation in life, but his answer still confuses me from time to time.

Here’s how he put it to me—I’ve never forgotten it.

Jesus loves and respects you so much that he would not dare trespass. Think about it, he said. If you are seeking intimacy with someone, you wait for their consent before coming close, you listen to each other, spend time with each other, and share in conversation and company. If you want Jesus to come close to you, invite him in. Tell him everything you want him to know. If you give him permission, he will know that you are open to his counsel.

Jesus needed Peter to say, I love you—even though he knew Peter loved him more than anything. It was only when Peter claimed his love, out loud, that Jesus allowed himself to impart God’s given mission for Peter’s life.

“Feed my lambs.”

And with each consecutive confirmation, Jesus asked more of Peter.

“Tend my sheep.”

Until Peter simply was able to trust Jesus enough to go wherever God may choose to lead him.

“Follow me.”

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