Through the years, I would often wonder why I did not have the same passion for spiritual things as my mother.
When I was younger, I noticed how frequently and fervently she prayed and attended church activities whenever she can. At one point, we lived near the church. She attended all the “Misa de Gallo” masses and early morning church procession while I preferred to curl in bed.
I also had a former supervisor who venerated God the same way my mother did. Upon reaching the office, he would play Godly music to fill the atmosphere. During break times, he would read spiritual materials online. After office, he would often attend Mass.
In contrast, I would spend my free time learning new skills or acquiring knowledge about making money or about the latest news and technology.
One thing I noticed that my mother and my supervisor had in common is that each church service they attended filled them with peace and joy. They also worried less and were contented with any situation in life. I am a God-fearing person, I obey church teachings and listen to my conscience but somehow I wondered how it would be if I had the kind of LOVE they seemed to have.
When I reflect about it, I worry about my spiritual situation. I want to be passionately in love with God like my mother or supervisor but I think I love God more with my mind than with my heart. Will God accept this love that I am able to give?
Today’s church sermon answered my question. The reading centered on this question of Jesus to Peter: “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?”
Jesus asked Peter this question three times on the third time he appeared to the disciples in John 21:15-17:
So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.…
One popular interpretation to this is that because Peter denied Jesus 3 times prior to his death on the cross, Jesus asked Peter this question 3 times to allow Peter to redeem himself.
In today’s sermon, Fr. Adrian shared another interpretation from one of his teachers.
According to him, the original manuscript of this reading was written in Greek. In Greek, the word love can be of three types: eros, agape and philos.
In the first question, Jesus used the term agape for love. He was asking Peter is he loved him ‘unconditionally’. When Peter answered, the term he used for love was philos – he loved God as a human being to the best of his capability but within the limitations of his human weaknesses. He did not say that he loved God back unconditionally.
The second time Jesus asked Peter if he loved him, Jesus still used agape. But when Peter answered, he still answered philos.
The third time Jesus asked Peter, he used the word philos. Peter also affirmed his love using the term philos.
In this story, Jesus went down to the level of Peter in order to make Peter connect with him. Jesus comes down to our level too so He could raise us up to His level and empower us to reach our full potential in Him.
I was amazed and touched as I heard this interpretation. God accepts my kind of love with all my weaknesses! God loves me unconditionally. I also came to the realization that as he reaches down to my level, he will help me grow in love if I will let him.
God understands our weakness and limitations. He reaches down to us. However, we need to strive to love God with agape. In Matthew 22: 37-38, “Jesus declared, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’. This is the first and greatest commandment.”
Temptations and distractions are many, making our hearts drift toward the material rather than spiritual. To win this battle of the soul, we will need the grace of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus, thank you for loving me unconditionally. Thank you for loving me despite my limitations. Please accept my ‘philos’ kind of love. Grant me the grace to grow in love with you. Pour out your Holy Spirit upon me that I may learn to love you with greater passion without condition as you love me.
Sources: Fr. Adrian’s sermon, Redemptorist Church and Danny silk‘s blog