Homily for Memorial of Pope St. Paul VI

In his landmark document on evangelization, Evangelii Nuntiandi, Pope St. Paul VI poses these questions:

“Do you really believe what you are proclaiming? Do you live what you believe? Do you really preach what you live?”

These questions aren’t just for priests, deacons and bishops to ponder before stepping into the pulpit. No, these questions are for every single Christian to take absolutely seriously. Without asking ourselves questions like these, we can end up living an unexamined, unexplored, and underdeveloped faith:

“Do I really believe? Do I really live what I believe? Do I really preach?”

These questions ultimately boil down to the same exact question Jesus repeats to Peter three times in our Gospel passage today:

“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”

Our entire life — the full weight of all our actions, thoughts, and desires — ought to be a compelling and obvious witness to the love we have for the Lord. In this sense, every single baptized Christian is a preacher. Every last believer is sent out by Jesus to live their life in such a way that our response to Jesus’ questions is crystal clear:

“Yes Lord, you know that I love you.”

Peter’s answer takes courage and humility. Peter is an imperfect man — he denied the Lord three times — yet he looks into the Face of Jesus and says: “You know that I love you, Lord.” 

It’s as if he is saying: “You know me, Lord. You know all my faults and failings. You know the gifts and talents you’ve filled me with. I can claim nothing. You loved me first. And in my weakness, I entrust myself to you. To whom else shall I go? You know that I love you — or at least: You know that I want to love you! Help me love You, Lord!”

This sort of humble witness: An eager and willing surrender to the Lord — A total forfeiting of our lives to the Living God who knows us infinitely better than we know ourselves, is right at the heart of evangelization.

This is why after Peter’s confession, “Yes Lord, you know that I love you,” Jesus gives him a task:

“Feed my lambs… Tend my sheep.”

Loving God and being loved by God is always directly outward. Christian faith is never self-satisfied. It always seeks to feed — tend — give away — generate — spread — overflow — die, so as to rise. It’s like a warm and beautiful fire that, as others come closer and closer, inevitably catches them on fire as well.

That’s why Pope St. Paul VI says in that same document I just quoted: “Evangelization will never be possible without the action of the Holy Spirit.” 

It’s ultimately the Holy Spirit, dwelling within Peter, dwelling within each of us, that groans to be expressed: “Yes Lord, you know that I love you!”

As we await the day of Pentecost, lets pray that the Holy Spirit Himself will come and fill us so we can be more courageous in believing — more faithful in living — more bold in preaching the love of God.