LOVE DOES NOT SEEK ITS OWN
Archpriest Sergiy Baranov
Church of St John of Shanghai
St Elisabeth Convent
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit!
I congratulate you on partaking of the Eucharist!
I want to remind you of today’s Gospel that we heard during the Liturgy. In this Gospel, the Lord says He is going to Jerusalem where He will suffer a lot from the chief priests and scribes; He will suffer a lot, even to death. All of a sudden, according to the Gospel, Apostle Peter “began to rebuke Him,” in other words, the Apostle contradicted Him, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!”1 He says this from the bottom of his heart and from the depth of his love to the Teacher and the Lord understands he is saying this out of love and compassion. However, the Lord answers him somewhat harshly. What answer did He give him? “Get behind Me, Satan!”2 By human reckoning, the Lord gives such a frustrating answer to St Peter’s support and sympathy with the fate of his beloved Teacher and God.
Try to put yourselves in Peter’s shoes in this situation and moment. You suddenly hear from the One you love very much and not only love but worry and shiver with horror for Him, such insulting words, which He, in addition, says in the presence of other Apostles, “Get behind Me, Satan!”
Who could overcome such words without turning out in offense and leaving? Who kept on following Him despite everything? Who could tolerate such words? The one whose love subdues everything. Like a loyal dog who is shoved out but keeps following its master.
Once on Athos, I visited Kafsokalivia, the skete where Elder Porphyrios of Kafsokalivia lived. We went to his cell and a monk there told us a story about a monk who went fishing. A cat there always knew when that monk went fishing and always kept getting in his way keeping up with him. The monk had a sharp temper and the one who told the story once saw how he kicked the cat so it flew into the bushes but sprang out of them immediately and followed him again. That cat knew what it was going for.
Apostle Peter also knew what he was going for. He did not want to get any profit from the Lord, he only had his pure love for Him. “Lord, let me be the last of the Apostles. You may call me names, if You wish. If You do not show me any tenderness, love, or attention, I will follow You all the same. Because I have fallen in love that is selfless and nothing can ruin it. I chose You once and forever, at the moment when I left my boat and the nets, this was once and forever. My final decision.”
It is not by coincidence that after all of the trials and betrayal of Apostle Peter, the nature of which was fear, a simple human cowardice, after all this, Apostle Peter hears the following words, “Do you love Me?” “Yes, I do.” “Do you?” “I do.” “Do you?” “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” This is why the Lord says, “Feed My sheep.”3 Because Peter was tested not only three but thirty-three times, and proved his love, loyalty and selflessness.
All our Christian life goes through the trial of our relationship with God. Why do we love Him? If this question rises, we do not love Him at all. There should not be such questions. One can only love for nothing, selflessly, without conditions and options. I simply fell in love with You and I will follow You, no matter if You kick me, call me names, pay me any attention or not. I love you no matter how You treat me, I will love You despite everything. There is no disappointment in such a love. Disappointment in love is a big wound and a great drama. Love without disappointment always brings joy, goodness and happiness. It is always about “Christ is Risen!”
Glory to Thee, our God! Glory to Thee, our God! Glory to Thee, our God!
1 Mt. 16:22
2 Mt. 16:23
3 Jn. 21:15-17