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My sermon for this week is based on Matthew 16:13-19.
Today we celebrate the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, both of whom, we are told, suffered and died for the Gospel. Therefore, naturally, they are referred to as martyrs.
Now, I have an ambiguous relationship with martyrdom. On the one hand, I think there is something to be said for trite inspirational statements that run somewhere along the line of "If you have nothing worth dying for, you have nothing worth living for". Whether it be your children or justice or freedom or equality, I think that we should be passionate about something in life, to the extent that we are willing to suffer for it.
But then there are people who call themselves "martyrs" because they kill themselves and take innocent people with them. These people are NOT martyrs, and by no means should they be respected, admired or venerated.
I guess what I am saying is: be careful when tossing around the term and be careful which "martyrs" you respect.
Either way, once again, the Gospel for today revolves around love. I have said it before and I risk saying it again that love is not a noun, it is a verb. It is not a person, place or thing, but it is an action word.
For example, if I love someone, I try to help them, nurture them, comfort them. I don't sit back in admiration as they go through the ringer.
Jesus asks Peter three times in today's Gospel if he loves him, and the third time Peter is understandably hurt. Does Jesus not trust him? Is Jesus testing him? Is Jesus feeling whiny and insecure?
No to all three.
What we need to pay attention to is Jesus' response to Peter's answer: "If you love me, feed my sheep".
As I child, I used to ask my parents, "Do you love me?", to which they would always say, "Yes". But then I would follow up with a request like, "Then buy me a toy". At an early age, most of us are aware that to use the word "love" is to imply a bond, a promise, a covenant.
At its basest level, we are aware that there is a consequence to loving someone.
There is a consequence to loving Jesus, to loving God, to loving that which exemplifies the best that humanity has to offer. That consequence is that we need to pull our heads out of the sand (or wherever we are hiding it) and get out into the world to feed the poor, clothe the naked, right the wrongs.
To say we love Christ or God and to fail to reach out and heal others or the world is to pay lip service to humanity. It is to reduce love to a noun and not a verb.
Turn love into an action today.