For several months, I had been mulling over a craft project to warm up our new home a bit: I wanted a personalized stone to put at the end of our driveway with our family name. Having researched such an item online and found the cost prohibitive, I determined to create one myself using a stone that was already in place in our landscaping instead. I trotted out there one recent sunny afternoon with a wheelbarrow, a pitchfork, and my determination, but after several minutes of pushing, pulling, and lifting with a pitchfork lever during which my dog watched with mixed excitement and confusion, the boulder hadn’t budged. Not an inch.
That evening, while I was busy in the house, my husband played in the yard with the children. I returned to the window to find that the large rock was now inside the wheelbarrow, and my sweating and puffing husband asked, “Where do you want this thing?” He also warned me that wherever we put it, “it’s staying.” I thanked him several times, to which he flashed his boyish grin I love so much and replied simply, “You’re welcome.”
Ah, the things we do for love. How many times in our lives do we perform unpleasant or difficult tasks for the sake of those we love? Jesus gave us such perfect examples of living our lives with love in his actions while on earth. From feeding the multitude through a miracle he didn’t have to perform to washing the feet of his disciples, Jesus gave of himself in love at all times. And of course, He made the ultimate sacrifice of love when He died on the cross for our salvation.
The sorrowful aspect of this story is the many ways in which Jesus’s apostles and followers failed to serve Him in love. When Jesus admonished that if they only had faith the size of a mustard seed, they could move mountains, no one believed. When He invited his apostles to walk upon the water with him, only one accepted the invitation but sank immediately when his faith in Jesus faltered. And the ultimate betrayal of love, when Peter denied even knowing his beloved friend and teacher in the courts of the Jewish leaders. How far from grace we can fall when we fail to live our lives in love!
But, as with so many stories, this one has a happy continuance. “He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?’ and he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep’.” (John 21:17). In Peter’s final declaration of love to the Lord, he is given the duty to shepherd and care for the people of God, the infant Church. In this one assignment, Jesus entrusts his most precious legacy to one whom He loves. And Peter does not fail, but lives the rest of his days in love and service as the first pope and, eventually, a martyr for the glory of the Lord.
Just as Peter’s human love was not perfect, neither is the human love shared by a husband and wife. It is inconstant, sometimes conditional, sometimes self-serving. But just as Jesus perfected Peter’s love and used it to bolster his Church, so too does he perfect the love of spouses through the grace of the sacrament. When our will begins to falter, we have only to turn to that grace for renewed strength and determination, whether to love better… or to move boulders.