Jesus asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’
I haven’t written in a while, end of year projects, hustle and bustle of the holidays and like so many folks this pesky cold that just won’t go away. There are all kinds of reasons, but honestly, the main reason is because I’ve been arguing with the Holy Spirit. I’ve had this nagging back and forth in my prayer life, “You want me to write about what? I can’t write about baptisms and Jesus after the crucifixion. It’s Christmas! You know celebration, magi, humble beginnings, new life, gifts, and great joy!” And it always comes back to me, “what greater joy is there than to receive this?”
At the recent Call to Action conference two speakers touched my prayer life in unexpected ways, Dan Schutte and Megan McKenna. Mr. Schutte shared with us, from John where Jesus asks, “Simon, do you love me?” There is an aching vulnerability in such a question, that anticipation of what if the answer is “no” or, “uhhh…” or that dismissive “what a silly question to ask”. We are wide open, exposed, showing that we care about the answer; we need to receive assurance, comfort, love. Our need is not silly and Jesus, gifted us with that knowing. He too wanted to know “do you love me?” Being loved is just as important as being able to love.
Ms. McKenna spoke on Jesus’ baptism from Luke. She shared that “and Jesus was praying” is so significant, because to pray means to stand in the presence of God, to be seen and known for who you are and not run away. And as a result of that God told Jesus, “I am deeply pleased. I take great delight in you.” And that Jesus’ baptism becomes the example for us. God is pleased and delights in us. Even when we stand in that presence and are seen and known for who we are and do not runaway, we are recipients of this amazing gift, this miraculous love – agape. Fr. Jean Corbon defines agape as love that “renders the object lovable”. Oh to experience such love. To be rendered loveable. It implies that when we are boiled down to the most basic part, and when wholly seen we are still worthy of love.
Many of us have been raised with the teaching that “it’s better to give than to receive.” And at face value one can hardly argue with that. We’ve all seen what becomes of the world when it’s focused on winner take all, all for me, and I get mine first. We lament the outcome of such actions. And at Christmas time, many of us get a little bit more generous.
In the spirit of Christmas, we adopt needy families, serve in soup kitchens. Maybe we don’t think twice about the five dollars we hand to the person with the cardboard sign at the off-ramp. We are feeling so gracious we don’t even care that she/he might go buy a drink on this bitterly cold night; all in the Christmas spirit – eh? But I have to stop and ask myself, why is it so easy to be generous now and not the other eleven months of the year? What would it take for me to not only give but receive love all year long? What would it take to be open when it’s not the season to celebrate the Christ-child?
Am I being so generous because I have more power and security than those who are receiving? In the giving, I can maintain that distance from need. I have the power to say “Yes I love you or find you worthy.” Is it better to give than to receive because that means, I’m a “have” not a “have not”? OK – now that is NOT to say, don’t give. But I need to think about how and why I am giving? And how well do I receive gifts of all kinds in return? Am I willing to be the one in need? Am I willing to ask, “do you love me?” Am I willing to hear and believe, “I take great delight in you”? And am I willing to believe that gift is received of others as well – regardless of who and how they stand before God?
This Christmas season, what gifts are you willing to receive? How have you been “rendered lovable?”
Delighting with you on the path,