Pope Francis is quickly becoming my favorite person to quote. He has certainly captured the attention of many, many people by his humble gestures and simplicity of life. But I am even more captivated by his speeches and his morning homilies at Santae Marthae where he is in residence. Listen to his approach to the well-known question the Risen Christ asks Peter on the shores of Lake Tiberias:

“Do you love me?”; “Are you my friend?” (Cf. Jn 21:15 ff)

The question is addressed to a man who, despite his solemn declaration, was overcome by fear and went back on his word.

“Do you love me?”; “Are you my friend?”

The question is addressed to me and to each one of you, to all of us: if we avoid reacting too hastily and superficially, it encourages us to look within, to enter into ourselves.

“Do you love me?”; “Are you my friend?”

He who searches hearts (cf. Rom 8:27) makes himself a beggar of love, and questions us on the only really essential question, the premise and condition for pastoring his sheep, his lambs, his Church. Every ministry is based on this intimacy with the Lord; to live in him is the measure of our ecclesial service, which is expressed in an openness to obedience, to emptying of self, as we heard in the Letter to the Philippians, to total giving (cf. Phil 2:6-11).

While Pope Francis was addressing Bishops, what he said is applicable to all of us. Essential to faith is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We have often heard the question: “Do you love me?” It is easy to say yes and point to all we do for God. But I love the connection Francis makes by asking the second question: “Are you my friend?” Do we have a relationship? Imagine Jesus asking you this question. How would you answer? This is not a question that should be answered quickly or defensively. This is not a matter of what you do for Christ. This is about your relationship with Christ.

This is an essential and ongoing question for anyone who professes to believe in Jesus Christ. It is worthy of our time and attention. “Do you love me? Are you my friend?”

Rev. James M. McNamara