Acts 5:27-32, 40b-41
"Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" John 21: 15
"Do you love me?" How many times have we asked this question, or have others asked it of us? There is the delightful story that I am sure some of you received over the internet. A young boy has been singing "You are my sunshine, my only sunshine…" to his little baby sister whom his mother still carries in her womb. A crisis occurs when his mother is told that her child will not survive, or if it is born, it will be seriously hampered for life. She goes into the hospital and gives birth. The little brother wants to see his sister but the nurse in charge of the nursery refuges to let the boy in. The baby sister’s condition continues to get worse. Finally, the mother yields to her son, dresses him in a green hospital outfit to sneak him in. The nurse recognizes him and screams at the mother to get him out. The mom stands her ground. "That’s his little sister." The little brother begins to sing, "You are my sunshine, my only sunshine…" The struggling little baby begins to quiet down. The little sister responds to the love of her little brother. The truth in this story is that the little girl continued to recover and grew up without all the projected limitations.
"Thanks for loving me!" When did you last experience the love, the concern of your husband, your wife, your mom, your dad, your grandma, your grandpa, your brother, your sister, or a dear friend? How can we forget those words, that touch, that hug, that loving look? How can you and I have forgotten the time, the effort, the patience, the tears that came in an effort to help you and me move through a bitter, painful moment or time in our life?
"Do you love me?" This Easter season gives us the image of Jesus resurrected from the dead. Interestingly enough as we gathered for Mass on Easter we noticed that the crucifix over the altar had not been removed. Nor will it be removed. "Greater love than this no one has but that he/she lay down his/her life for their friends." This is ongoing. Jesus’ love is portrayed in his resurrected body. The disciples see the wounds in his hands and feet and in his side. These wounds he keeps. What a great difference this means when we hear Jesus say, "Take up your cross and come follow me." What a difference to know that we aren’t being sent ahead and he will meet us later. He chooses to walk with us. He lets us know very clearly that he will not abandon us. No one can hold him back, or refuse to let him walk with us or sit beside us. Somehow or other the pain, the sickness, the loss, the betrayal, the ridicule, the abandonment we experience is not overwhelming because He is with us.
And so we welcome Jesus’ reminder: "As I have loved you, so are you to love one another."
Fr. Peter Berendt, C.P. is on the staff of Holy Name Passionist Retreat Center, Houston, Texas.