Let’s be honest. Most of the people we encounter every day don’t wake up in the morning with a burning desire to know the difference between the Ascension and the Assumption.
Remember that kid in grade school -- the one who couldn't raise his hand fast enough to answer all the teacher's questions? The one who was voted most likely to appear on Jeopardy? The one who annoyed everyone else with the incessant "oh, oh, ohs" she just couldn't stifle as her arm bobbed up and down in the air?
I think some of us Catholics are a lot like that. We are so desperate to show we have the answers, that we don't hear the questions. We study hard and are pretty convinced we have the right answers. But a lot of us have stopped listening to the questions that are being posed. As a result, we end up giving wonderfully complete and articulate answers to questions nobody is asking.
Let's be honest. Most of the people we encounter every day don't wake up in the morning with a burning desire to know the difference between the Ascension and the Assumption. They don't hope that today will be the day they finally understand transubstantiation or the hypostatic union of divine and human natures in Christ. And yet, those are the questions a lot of us devote ourselves to answering. Again, questions that practically nobody is asking.
If you've ever read even a little philosophy, you know that there are a few basic questions that echo across the ages. Why am I here? What is the meaning of life? How can I be happy? Humanity has grappled with these kinds of transcendent fundamentals not just from Socrates to Sartre, but long before and long after their kind. Still, I'd suggest that even these don't articulate the most basic question that lies embedded in every human heart and in the mystery of every human encounter.
Do you love me? That's the question every one of us wakes up with. It's the concern that animates our day and drives our lives. It's the one that keeps us up at night; the thing we desire -- and fear -- the most. It's the question that Jesus Christ came and lived and suffered and died and rose again to answer in the affirmative. Ironically, it is also the one he asks Peter at the shores of the Sea of Galilee after the Resurrection.
Do you love me? This is the question people are asking, perhaps more loudly than ever before. And this is the question the Church must answer before it moves on to the mystery of iniquity or the nature of sacramental grace. Amplified by the loneliness, isolation, anxiety, and division that mark our contemporary culture, "Do you love me?" is the unspoken subtext of all our interactions. It is lurking behind all the other questions and doubts people express about faith -- even the hostility they may have toward it.
Do you love me? Answering that question in the affirmative has always been the greatest tool of evangelization. Of course, there is a place for apologetics. But we can't get there from here and shouldn't even try without telling people we love them and showing them that love in concrete ways. And we can't do that until we ourselves have found the love we need in God, the one who is not just the source of love, but love itself.
Do you love me? The question can't be properly directed toward God without experiencing love -- however inadequate or fragile -- from another human being. As Christians, we are called to be the people who love. We are sent into the world to love it the way Christ does. That means being ready to answer the question that every soul is asking unequivocally and in the affirmative. Do you love me? Yes. I love you. We love you. And God loves you even more.
- Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a Catholic convert, wife, and mother of eight. Inspired by the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, she is an author, speaker, and musician, and provides freelance editorial services to numerous publishers and authors as the principal of One More Basket. Find Jaymie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @YouFeedThem.