“Do you love me?”
If you have ever been in a life-changing relationship in which honesty and wholeheartedness and faithfulness really matter, these four words are challenging: Do you love me?
Jesus asked these words of Peter after Peter’s betrayal and repentance. Jesus called Peter not simply back into relationship but into vocational relationship: You love me? Feed my lambs, feed my sheep.
When you are in honest, wholehearted, and faithful relationship with another your life begins to look different. Your actions and values and priorities change because real love changes everything. The entire New Testament attests to this.
What’s my vocation, people often wonder. I suggest: Look at who (or what) and how you actually love. Not how you would like to love, but how you actually do so. Get clear about that core part of your life; then come back and we can talk.
Even in the times of the Prophets vocation required relationship. Isaiah recoils at the first stirrings of wakefulness to relationship with God. “Woe is me, I am doomed,” he cries, “yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (see Isaiah 6:5). By intervention of an angel God cleanses him of his sin and renders him worthy of service. God says, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” Isaiah’s response moves him to a deeper commitment: “Here I am,” he replies, “send me” (v. 8).
Without real relationship you have no way to hear and respond to the call. But this is no ordinary relationship; it is an anointed relationship, opening the way to your anointed response. Look at Jeremiah, perhaps hoping to wiggle out of the dreaded vocation of prophet to God’s obstinate people. The dialogue is classic: “The word of the Lord came to me thus: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, / before you were born I dedicated you, / a prophet to the nations I appointed you. / ‘Ah, Lord God!’ I said, / ‘I know not how to speak; I am too young.’ / But the Lord answered me, / Say not, ‘I am too young.’ / To whomever I send you, you shall go; / whatever I command you, you shall speak. … / See, I place my words in your mouth” (see Jeremiah 1:4-9; emphasis added).
If you are baptized, you are in a truly extraordinary relationship with God, whether you understand it or appreciate it or not. The point of your lifelong faith journey is to wake up—really wake up—to what this relationship means and how it will stretch you toward the fullness of your own personhood. You are not merely baptized but anointed, and for a purpose. Now vocation has a way to make sense.
Jesus reminds us: “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain” (John 15:16). These words speak of an unimaginable and intimate relationship with the risen Lord—not a relationship to be hoped for, but a vocational relationship already given. It will take your entire lifetime, no matter how long or how short, to honestly, wholeheartedly, and faithfully live this vocational relationship to its fullest measure.
Will you encounter obstacles? Of course you will. Just look at the young virgin Mary. “How can this be?” she asked. Vocational relationship relies on divine intervention in human life. Things come about vocationally in a way that would not make sense if God did not exist.
“Do you love me?” Jesus asks this question of you and me each morning. “Feed my sheep, tend my fields; teach my children, feed my hungry ones, shelter these homeless ones,” we hear Jesus say. “Defend the life and dignity of those who cannot defend themselves,” he urges us. “Stand in the gap for them as I stood in the gap for you.”
Copyright 2012 Mary Sharon Moore, M.T.S.