I love going to church. I love hearing the message from our priest, hearing his words and the music wash over me, and leave feeling renewed. Today our gospel message involved Jesus talking to Simon Peter and asking Peter if he loved him.
Our priest interestingly began his homily by talking about the difference between cats and dogs. How dogs greet you at the door, tails wagging, come when you call, usually see thrilled to see you. Cats, on the other hand, greet you on their terms. He said in his experience it is easier to love a dog, but you have to be more selfless to love a cat because you will not have that feeling reciprocated as often.
Then Father talked about the definition of love as in our gospel today. That Jesus was looking at more of the Ancient Greek definition, which they used the word agápe. That means more of an unconditional love. Simon Peter was using love in terms of the word philia, which is more of a friendship love. Father asked us to think, who in our life needs more unconditional love from us?
As Father continued with his homily, and then even on the drive home, my mind kept turning back to these two definitions of love. Of course, it is easy to love most of the time. It is when times get rough – when people frustrate you – do you still show love? I love my children, even when I want to throw my hands up in frustration, I still love them.
And then I thought, as always, of my students. I tell them every year, from the moment I see their names on my class list, I love them. They become my family. And yet, some are easier to love than others. Some frustrated me beyond belief. But I know, and Father taught me again today, that those students who drive me to the breaking point are the ones who need my love the most. Who need patience, understanding, compassion, kindness. And I breathe, and smile.
I think of the blogs, videos, articles, letters of the past week. The teachers frustrated with the system. The politicians frustrated with the teachers. Education is such a mess right now; I just don’t see the path to sanity. But when I look at my own district, my own school, my own classroom, my students – I do see my path. Unconditional love, for those sixty-seven kids this year. For the five hundred kids over the past fourteen years. If I focus on them, I know what I need to do. I cannot fix it all, but I can make a difference. Agápe, unconditional love. I’m in.