"Remember, I am with you always to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20)

Four Loves

oday, we reflect on the profound dialogue between Jesus and Peter at Lake Tiberias, a conversation that beautifully illustrates the different dimensions of love. CS Lewis wrote a book entitled "Four Loves" that corresponds to the ancient Greeks' four types of love. First is storge (familial affection), phileo (friendship love), eros (romantic love), and agape (divine love).

Let us focus on the first two types of love. For CS Lewis, the most basic form of love is storge or affection which is like the love between a parent and a child. It is a natural bond. Phileo, the love between friends, is “the least natural of loves” because it transcends biological necessity. It is the rarest form of love because when two friends click it is not by instinct, it points to a higher, spiritual connection, i.e., mutual interests, understanding and values. It is good to start a relationship with phileo. For some they start out with romantic love, but that too must grow into a deeper frienship, phileo. When we priests have the canonical interview before officiating any wedding, we look particularly at the time of the courtship process, which is not just in terms of months but years of being together. Why is that important? To rule out infatuation which is love in the heat of the moment. Love needs to grow first.

In today's gospel we have the dialogue between Jesus and Peter where we see love as phileo playing out. Jesus asks Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” using the word "agapas," which signifies another type of love, agapē, i.e., the ultimate form of love. In the conversation, Jesus started on the highest note about love, agapē, “Simon, son of John, do you love me unconditionally?” What do you think was Peter's response? Well Peter's answer to Jesus was “Philo se,” “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Peter used the word phileo (friendship love), not agapē.

It did not end there, Jesus was persistent in questioning. "Do you love me Peter unconditionally?" Peter is as persistent as Jesus, "Yes I love you as a friend." A word of caution though not to think of phileo as a form of love lower than agape. Many of us, myself included, think of it that way. Why is it that we should not look at phileo or any other form of love as something lower than agapē? Because when Jesus asked Peter a third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Jesus was not using the concept of agapē. He used the word phileo. “Simon, son of John, do you love me as a friend?”

Jesus’ persistent questioning invited Peter to grow into a deeper relationship. Our Lord’s acceptance of Peter’s phileo illustrates that our relationship with God can start with where we are comfortable, and through His grace, we can gradually move towards the fullness of agapē. But all loves, no matter how selfish at first, no matter how narcissistic, if it is allowed some time to grow. There is a saying "What we do not love we will not save." Love is an emotion that grows up inside us like a plant that grows. When our first parents took their time to learn about each plant and animal they found in the garden their love for all of creation grew spontaneously. It is said love is a good investment. The more you give, the more you get. All love will find their way to God because God is love. Amen. Fr JM Manzano SJ


  1. So true. Love grows as we invest more care and love for another...even a rescue kitten! And each time we love, are we not becoming more like Love Himself?

    1. Thank you for sharing about loving and becoming who we love in the process!


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