Henri Nouwen’s reflections on the gospels always challenge me and provide a fresh insight that helps me read a passage with fresh eyes. I am in the middle of reflecting on what it means to be ordained and what sort of priest God is calling me to be which means filling in lots of boxes as well as thinking! I keep coming back (and have blogged about this before) to love and how do we live out God’s love. In words far more articulate than I manage Nouwen expresses how he understands this in relation to the questions Jesus asked of Peter: “Do you love me?” I still have so much to learn about how to demonstrate to people that God and I love them unconditionally and regularly have to confront my own attitudes, not least to myself which is something I have in common with Henri Nouwen.
The question [from Jesus to Peter in John 21:13-15] is not: How many people take you seriously? How much are you going to accomplish? Can you show some results? But: Are you in love with Jesus? Perhaps another way of putting the question would be: Do you know the incarnate God? In our world of loneliness and despair, there is an enormous need for men and women who know the heart of God, a heart that forgives, that cares, that reaches out and wants to heal. In that heart there is no suspicion, no vindictiveness, no resentment, and not a tinge of hatred. It is a heart that wants only to give love and receive love in response. It is a heart that suffers immensely because it sees the magnitude of human pain and the great resistance to trusting the heart of God who wants to offer consolation and hope. The Christian leader of the future is the one who truly knows the heart of God as it has become flesh, ‘a heart of flesh’, in Jesus. Knowing God’s heart means consistently, radically, and very concretely to announce and reveal that God is love and only love, and that every time fear, isolation, or despair begin to invade the human soul this is not something that comes from God. This sounds very simple and maybe even trite, but very few people know that they are loved without any conditions or limits (Nouwen 2001:125-6).
Nouwen, Henri J M (2001). Jesus A Gospel. Maryknoll: Orbis.