A Burning Question

Source: pinterest.com

I remember it well, as if it was yesterday, yet it was May 1972. We had gone to see the movie “Fiddler on the Roof,” a musical that would have a lasting impact on me. As the house lights went down in a small theatre in Spokane, Washington, I was drawn into the story of Teyve, the Dairy man and his family.

I was unmarried then, so the role of Yenta, the matchmaker intrigued me. However, it was the burning question that Tevye asked his wife Golde that has lingered in my mind. “Do you love me?” he asked her, to which she aghast replied, “Do I what?”

His repeated question brought forth a list of ways in which she tried to prove her love for him. “For 25 years I’ve washed your clothes, cooked your meals, cleaned your house, given you children, milked your cow…if that’s not love, what is?” After the back-and-forth banter they come to the conclusion, “then you love me?” to which the other replies, “I suppose I do.”

“Do you love me?” is the universal and forever question. Books, plays, songs, and movies have spun tales of love lost and found through the passage of time. The Gospels too are full of stories, parables of God’s love for humankind.

What stands out for me, is the breakfast by the sea of Tiberius in John 21:15-19. It is a post Resurrection scene when Jesus asks Peter three times, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter’s spontaneous reply is, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”

Peter had denied Jesus three times during his passion, so Jesus now asks Peter to reaffirm his faith. The emphasis here is on Peter’s love and obedience to the risen Christ. Jesus commissions Peter to “feed my sheep.” Jesus is asking for agape, (Greek) unconditional love.

When Peter responds, he expresses phileo, brotherly love. Jesus’ reiterated question moves Peter from phileo to agape love. In stretching Peter, Jesus attempts to make him understand his new role, as shepherd of God’s people, not an ordinary fisherman. He was being called upon to glorify God by spreading the Gospel.

Peter’s weaknesses and failings were obliterated in the fire of God’s love. If he felt the shame of his betrayal of Jesus, it was washed away with mercy and forgiveness.

The test of love is action. Am I willing to be an ambassador for Christ? Of the twelve apostles, only John died of natural causes, the rest were martyred. Tradition has it that St. Peter was crucified upside down!

There are many people who have given up their lives for love of God, like the eight Jesuit missionaries who are recognized as Canadian martyrs – St. Rene Goupil, St. Isaac Jogues, St. Jean de Lalande, St. Antoine Daniel, St. Jean de Brebeuf, St. Noel Chabanel, St. Charles Granier, and St. Gabriel Lalemant.

Visiting the Martyrs’ shrine in Midland, Ontario reminds one of the sacrifices these brave men of God made to spread the Gospel message among the Hurons.

Archbishop Oscar Romero was killed while saying Mass, all because he loved God in the poor who were being illtreated. Thousands have sacrificed their lives for their faith. Bishop Robert Barron says that, “The ultimate test of discipleship is our willingness to abandon our egos and be carried by a power greater than ourselves.” I see that power as God’s love propelling us forward to act in love on our daily walk.

The National Catholic Register of March 2, 2021 has an article about Servant of God Shahbaz Bhatti, the only Christian in Pakistan’s cabinet, who fought for the rights of Christians and others, and was sadly assassinated 10 years ago. A devout Catholic, he ignored the death threats he received saying, “I am a disciple of Christ, I will never abandon my country and my people.”

In a video recorded for release in case he was killed, Shahbaz Bhatti clearly states, “I believe in Jesus Christ who has given his life for us. I know what is the meaning of (the) cross, and am following of his cross, and I am ready to die for a cause.” He definitely answered Jesus’ question by giving up his life for love of God.

Like the apostle Peter, we are all called to provide spiritual nourishment to help others grow. The call is not easy. Christianity is about our relationship with Jesus. Do I love him enough to feed his sheep that may entail suffering? Thomas Merton reminds us that “Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone, we find it with another.” The other is Jesus.

I now find myself singing and reflecting on the Carey Landry hymn:

“Do you really love me? Jesus said to Peter,

  Do you really love me? Jesus said again.

  Lord you know I love you, Peter said with joy,

 Then feed my lambs, he said, Peter feed my sheep.”

Rooted in Christ, I have stepped into his circle of unending love.

Viola Athaide, a student of Theology, is actively involved in parish life, leading Bible courses, the Prayer Group, and the Ministry with Maturing Adults.

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 08:29h, 13 May Reply

    Thank you Viola!

  • Dee Sproule
    Posted at 08:38h, 13 May Reply

    Thank you so much for your beautiful, inspiring reflection! You drew me in instantly with the reference to that scene in Fiddler, which is so impacting and didn’t let me go until in my heart, I said, “Yes Lord, I love you” and I, too, stepped into the circle!

  • Ana Maria Rodriguez
    Posted at 08:45h, 13 May Reply

    to read and read this passage always represents a treasure as an eternal learning lesson from the love of God….. TO LOVE always has to be with CAPITAL LETTERS……

  • Dodzi Amemado
    Posted at 09:08h, 13 May Reply

    Thank you, Voila, for your inspiring posts.

  • Richard Grover
    Posted at 09:13h, 13 May Reply

    It is easy in the long time of the pandemic, to forget that the meaning of our life is to be found in our love for and with others….not by our introspection and worry. Thank you Viola.

  • Lorraine Majcen
    Posted at 12:08h, 13 May Reply

    Thank you Viola. You have given me so many reminders, of being a light and a voice for God to the world. To listen to the still small voice within my heart, let go of ego, and be obedient to his will for me.

  • Sylvia Lee
    Posted at 13:41h, 13 May Reply

    “Do you love me ?” is a tough question to ask and to answer.

    Your sharing leads me to reflect deeply on the two big commandments ~ love God and love thy neighbours.

    Thank you Viola for your sharing. God bless you.

  • Maria Lobo
    Posted at 14:02h, 13 May Reply

    You, dear Viola, are truly an “ambassador for Christ”…as you reflect HIS deep, abiding love for you…and for each one of us.
    – I admire how you always get our attention at first, with a ‘secular’ scene; and then, you smoothly transport us to the God-centred ‘spiritual’ arena!
    – Each poem or presentation of yours elicits a personal response from us…a “burning answer”, shall we say?!
    – Always thankful for your formidable witness, as you use His gifts for His glory, and for the building of His kingdom, here on earth!

  • Karen Arthurs
    Posted at 16:05h, 13 May Reply

    Beautiful subject Viola not discussed often enough in its true light and manner. While your example of Fiddler on the Roof is a relatable one, I recall the engagement of Prince Charles and Diana, when asked: are you “in love?”, Charles’ reply was, “whatever ‘in love means’. Thank you for taking the subject of love to a higher level.

  • Rosa Scarpino
    Posted at 19:15h, 13 May Reply

    Thank you Viola for your deep reflection on LOVE. f I were asked that question, what would I answer?
    I pray for God’s grace that I may one day say “Yes Lord, you know I love you”
    Blessings, Rosa.

  • Mario Coutinho & Olivia Coutinho
    Posted at 10:43h, 14 May Reply

    Thank you, Viola,

    Your initiative guiding us towards the love of a divine nature is always inspiring and I for one never cease to admire your enthusiasm in persisting in sharing it with us. Thank you for keeping us on track of spirituality. With the incessant demands of the electronic age, I am trailing behind hoping to catch up before I can trail no more.
    Much affection,
    Mario and Olivia

  • Teresa Correia
    Posted at 06:56h, 15 May Reply

    Thank you for this beautiful article Viola. You are a true disciple of Jesus “a fisher of people “… through your continuous ministries in our community.
    God Bless

  • Lorella D'Cruz
    Posted at 08:43h, 15 May Reply

    Yet again, Viola demonstrates in her easy, relatable style, the deep truth behind our faith; God’s all-encompassing love, a love which is forever merciful and forgiving, an exemplar we are to follow if we call ourselves Christian. “If I… have a faith that can move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.” 1 Corinthians, 13-2. God IS love.

  • Susana P Que
    Posted at 17:06h, 17 May Reply

    Thank you once again Viola….a very beautiful article on Love…. and especially for reminding us of God’s love, no matter how much we betray and make Him sad. I thank the Lord for giving you such a gift of writing. God bless you always.

  • Fay
    Posted at 14:15h, 22 May Reply

    Viola, While I’m in awe as to how you manage to capture so many passages and other quotes relating the the Burning Question as you so rightly put it, this article gave me much to reflect on that important question towards Love for God and my brothers and sisters. A see I have a lot of work to do before I can answer that most important question. Thank you for bring us into focus on the right path. I pray the Holy Spirit continue to inspire you as you share your talents with us all. God Be with you.

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