Tuesday, November 28, 2006

"Do You Love Me?" -- My Church Meets You Where You Are

After his resurrection, Jesus met Peter on the seashore. Three times he asked Peter, "Do you love me?" (How many times had Peter betrayed him before the rooster crowed? You get the idea.) But not everyone knows that Jesus used a different form of "love" the first two times he asked Peter than the last time.

The first time Jesus asked, "Peter, do you agapais (unconditionally, selflessly love) me?" Peter replied, "Lord, you know that I philow (love you as a brother) you."

The second time Jesus again asked, "Peter do you agapais me?" Peter answered, "Lord, you know that I philow you."

The third time, the Lord changes terms. He sees Peter's weakness; but instead of remaining aloof, Jesus meets Peter where he is. He asks, "Peter, do you phileis me?" And Peter, disturbed, answers, "Lord, you know all things. You know that I philow you" (John 21:15-17).

In this small pericope, we see in miniature God's unlimited willingness to meet us where we are. It is a trait that continues in the Catholic Church.

George Tyrrell notes this in his Reflections on Catholicism:

"... we feel that Catholicism is, in tendency, a religion of all levels of spiritual development, and not of one only; that it has milk for babes and meat for adults; that it is a language in which the simplest and the subtlest can hold converse with Heaven on the shallowest themes and the deepest. And this range and versatility commends it to us as a product of experience, of God working through Nature; and not a device of human reflection...

"I could not be satisfied with a religion which, however much it did for me, did nothing for the masses or for the classes -- too academic for the former, too barbaric for the latter. The board spread for all must have every sort of fare, so that each may find something, though none can find everything, to his taste and requirement ... It is only the fantastic notion that we must eat everything on the table that makes the banquet seem burdensome to us."

Arnold Lunn in reflecting on Tyrrells' reflections adds, "The Catholic family, then, is not a museum exhibit of saints, but a human family in which saints, publicans and sinners all feed from the same table."

And Jesus feeds us all, our Eucharistic Lord, forgives us in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and asks, "Do you love me?" meeting us each right where we are.

5 comments:

Porthos said...

I think that's W. H. Auden, originally: "The Church is not a showcase for saints but a hospital for sinners." Just working from memory though.

David Nybakke said...

...and then come, follow me. (Mark 10:21)

Correct me if I'm wrong here, but Christianity is not just a check list that once "you" (there is an interesting subject) mark in a box your attendance in church you can claim some sort of status - I've made it, no more study or work. This message of meeting folks where they are is nice, all warm-&-fuzzy, but isn't it also about getting "hooked-up" with the Church for a journey that follows Christ and the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? (Woooo, and what a ride it is.)

The human tendency for complacency is boundless, if I can say it that way, so I think we need to see the Church as leader and healer and teacher - staying faithful, obedient and disciplined as the Body of Christ. We not only find rest and comfort, but we are each CALLED out to a ministry for the grace of giving of our talents (how stifled and sour we would become if we don't allow our gifts to flow out to others). We are graced with talents and within the Church we are graced with an outlet to make use of those talents by reaching out to others.

So the Church meets all at where they are at, sinful and in need, leads us through healing and teaching to exercise our gifts for the other and Other.

...and then come, follow me.

ScottDinsmore said...

Dear Massketeers and Readers,

I appreciate the above emphasis on membership in the Catholic faith requiring a lifelong journey based on personal connection.

I am 32 y.o. bachelor, which doesn't seem unusual in big cities. While I THEORETICALLY want/yearn for connection, I feel threatened by the commitments, as men are wont to say.

In my mind's ratio, which help make action possible, the LOVE OF CONNECTION must be greater than the fear of losing autonomy. Prayer is the tool to increase the love. What else?

Athos said...

One needs to be fairly careful when it comes to judging what is going on in the heart, mind and life of someone we may simply see as a church-goer.

Two went up to attend noonday Mass:

One prayed,

"Lord, thank you for not making me like that rabble over there. I tithe, I make sandwiches for Jesus House, I support avantgarde indie Franciscan filmmakers ... and read French literary critics-turned-anthropologists."

The other stood, beating his chest, praying,

"Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner."

One went home justified. (Luke 18:9-14)

Appearances can be vvery deceptive, my dear Aramis. But being a member in full communion with the Catholic Church is a good place to be - cradle, convert, revert or otherwise.

Ex opere operato!

Porthos said...

Nice, Ath.

Welcome Scott Dinsmore! Does the registration process actually work now? It must be Aramis whom we have to thank for that. Raise a sword to Aramis!