The Gospel according to John (John 21:15-19)
“When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He then said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 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. Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”
Opening Prayer: Lord, I am here out of love for you. I want to follow you, and I want to feed your sheep. But I am weak, and I need to depend on your merciful love. Feed me with your love so I can in turn care for your sheep.
Encountering Christ: Today’s gospel provides an interesting challenge for us. Are we not like Peter sometimes in our lack of commitment to Jesus and the Father? At times we find ourselves asking the question “Does God really care about me?” OR “Does Jesus really expect me to do this or that?”. After all we are only human! Exactly the point Jesus is trying to get Peter to understand.
Interesting the parallel of Jesus asking the question of Peter three times, which of course corresponds to the number of times that Peter denied Christ. But Jesus goes deeper in the questioning. Not only is he getting a confirmation from Peter – he is giving us the message that we must feed the lambs, tend the sheep and finally after all that to feed the sheep.
He mentions first to feed the lambs, which means to feed and care for the young. The lambs are dependent on parents to not only physically feed and care for them, but to feed them spiritually. Parents are responsible as the first caregivers and teachers of the faith. All of us are called to monitor or watch over our most precious resource.
Next he tells Peter to tend the sheep. He is telling Peter and all of us to watch over our flock that gathers in community. In other words, we are all tasked with watching out for the group of faithful. We must continually be part of and available to the “Faith Community” that we are a part of. In other words – we are responsible for our parish members.
Finally, Jesus tells Peter to feed the sheep. This is last because unless we care for the rest of the group – we cannot know what is needed in the way of spiritual food and I don’t mean physical food either.
We are all part of the mystical body of Jesus, and Peter was at the very beginning. He passed on his experiences of Jesus and later all those encounters led to where our faith is today. As faith has evolved throughout the centuries we can clearly see that the command is un-wavering! Care for each other and watch over all – especially the young and the most vulnerable!
The final aspect of this gospel focuses on the martyrdom of Peter. Jesus, through Peter, tells us that we must die to self and serve the Father. But the final two words really present the biggest challenge….We must follow Jesus to whatever extent is necessary! At times that is difficult and even sometimes it isn’t popular to follow Jesus. Take this world for example…humanity – in many ways – is not following the simple law of God –to love one another.
The gospel today invites us into a much deeper relationship with the Father, Jesus AND our fellow man. We should begin by caring for one another at home – in our families – and then branch out to our larger parish family and finally to the community that we live in.
We are a wounded people. It is prevalent throughout the world. We need forgiveness, tolerance and compassion. We also are in need of some common sense in how we should be reacting to many of these outside influences and challenges. Perhaps a better way to say it is – we need to filter many of the things coming into our lives and apply Jesus’ test of ….Can we see to care for one another RATHER THAN bring hate and destruction to others.
We all must replace our biases with our ability to love others as we love ourselves. When we are able to do that – we then are truly following Jesus.
Closing Prayer: Lord, you know everything. You have seen me at my best and at my worst. Give me the conviction to renew my desire to follow you even after I fall. You are always there, ready to pour the Holy Spirit on my wounds and heal me.
Action for the Day: Think of the last time you had a priest absolve you from your failings. Pray for that priest – that he was there as the representative of Jesus himself – forgiving your sins, and wrapping Jesus’ love around you. That priest showed you the immense love of Jesus as he made the sign of the cross over you!
Thank God for that man made priest! He said “YES” to following Jesus. He took Jesus’ invitation to “follow me” to heart AND committed himself to a lifetime of service to God’s Church…..AMEN!