Jesus Comes to Our Level
Our gospel today is another appearance of the risen Lord after his resurrection. Toward the end of this gospel Jesus asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” The actual Greek was a play on words, something that is missed in the English translation. In Greek there are three words for love: “agape” (unconditional love), “philia” (brotherly love) and “eros” (romantic or sexual love). Two of these words for love are used in today’s gospel. Jesus asks Peter the first two times, “Do you agape me (unconditionally love)?” Both times Peter responds by saying, “Lord you know that I philia you (brotherly love).” The third time, Jesus changes the question and asks Peter who has been unable to respond with the unconditional/agape love, “Do you philia me?” And Peter says, “Of course I philia you.”
The impact of this section deepens with understanding of the different words for love, for Jesus chooses to come to the level of love where Peter is, he doesn’t insist that Peter come to his level. Jesus always invites us to deeper love, deeper commitment and greater service. But the invitation doesn’t force us. We meet Jesus at our level, not at His. This is the wonder of the incarnation, where God comes down from heaven to our level.
God loves us so much and wants us to rise to His level of unconditional love. But until we are able, God takes us where we’re at and builds from there. May our love for God grow and may our kindness toward others reflect the kind of love and understanding we see in Jesus. Peace.