Do You Love Me?

(Third Sunday of Easter, Year C)

Before giving the homily this morning, I would like to address a delicate subject. With the days getting warmer, we sometimes have a problem with the way people dress for Mass. I’m not going to give specific norms like they have in Italy where skirts must cover the knees and men cannot enter with T-shirts. What I would like to do is tell a little story and let people apply it to themselves.

All of you have heard of Pope John XXIII and know that last year he was beatified. During the process they opened his tomb and discovered his face was incorrupt which is most appropriate because he was known for his round face, friendly smile and good humor. Before he became pope, he served as a Vatican diplomat and would often attend banquets with elegantly dressed people. Once he was seated next to a rather robust woman who, to tell the truth, was wearing dress too small for her body. She was practically coming out of it. Blessed John XXIII did not say anything during the meal, but at the end he picked up an apple and handed it to her.

Surprised, she said, “Thank you, but why are you giving me this apple?”

Blessed John replied, “It has to do with our mother Eve. It wasn’t until she ate the apple that she realized her lack of clothes!”

Well, I’m not going to make a specific dress code, but perhaps this summer we will have a basket of apples at the exits. If you are given one, you will know why.

The problem seems to be that during the winter some people put on a few extra pounds – and by spring their clothing is a little tight. You have two options. One is to diet, exercise and shed weight – or to face reality and buy a larger size. You don’t want to be a distraction during Mass. I notice sometimes the boys, instead of looking forward, are looking at the girls. Mothers need to guide their daughter – and of course set a good example themselves.

And it’s not just the girls and ladies. The men sometimes offend. Remember, you dress one way when going to the beach or camping, but a different way when you come to Mass. Try to wear your nicest clothes, of course, to look attractive, but not a distraction. You know what I mean.

This discussion of clothing does tie in with our Sunday readings. During the entire season of Easter, Jesus emphasizes his bodily presence – and thus inculcates a reverence for the human body. It’s not just something we use in this life, and then discard. Our bodies will one day be glorified like Jesus.

In today’s Gospel Jesus takes a further step. Three times he asks Peter, “Do you love me?” He’s not seeking reassurance like some insecure spouse. Rather he does so as a great leader. Consider history’s mightiest generals: Alexander, Caesar and Napoleon. Men followed them into extreme conditions – and were willing to sacrifice their very lives – because of personal loyalty.

Jesus asks that same loyalty - and he alone merits it. “Do you love me?” Then take care of my flock. For Peter – and his successors like Blessed John XXIII – that meant the universal flock. For you and me it means the souls Jesus entrusts to our care.

At some point it may also mean for us what it did for Peter. “When you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” (Jn 21:18) John tells us those word referred to martyrdom. From other sources we know it happened by crucifixion under Nero around 64 A.D.

Perhaps you or I will not experience such a terrible death, but following Jesus might take us “where you do not want to go.” What matters is our response to his most urgent question, “Do you love me?”

**********

Spanish Version

From Archives (Third Sunday of Easter, Cycle C):

2016: First Priority
2013: Tend My Sheep
2010: The Readiness is All
2007: I Am Going Fishing
2004: Obey God Rather Than Men
2001: Do You Love Me?
1998: Keeping the Boat in Good Condition

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

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