Feed Them

After Jesus had revealed himself to his disciples and eaten breakfast with them,
he said to Simon Peter,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
He then said to Simon Peter a second time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Simon Peter answered 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.”
(John 21:15-19)

Scripture Study

Three times Peter reaffirms his love for Jesus as personal restitution for the three times he denied him (13:38; 18:15–18, 25–27). The dialogue in Greek makes use of several synonyms: two different nouns are used for sheep, and two different verbs are used for feed, know, and love. Although this may be a stylistic feature to avoid redundancy, others think it more significant, especially with the verb love. In his first two questions, Jesus asks Peter if he loves him with “willing love” (Gk. agapaō), but in the third question he asks if Peter loves him with merely “friendly affection” (Gk. phileō), which is the word Peter uses in all three of his responses. An intended distinction between these terms would indicate that Jesus, desirous of a complete and heroic love from Peter, was willing by the end of the conversation to settle for his friendship.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today’s Gospel tells of the great engagement between the risen Jesus and Peter. Peter knows his sin—he betrayed Jesus three times. But Jesus brings him through the process of repentance and gives him the key to transformation. Three times Peter denied the Lord, and so three times Jesus asks him to reaffirm his faith: “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Notice that Christianity is not a set of ideas or convictions or principles. It is a relationship with a person. Do you love Jesus? Has he become your friend?

When Simon says yes, Jesus tests him: “Feed my lambs; tend my sheep, feed my sheep.” The test of love is action. Are we willing to do what Jesus did? Are we willing to go on mission on his behalf?

Then we hear that wonderful closing section: “As a young man you fastened your belt and went about as you pleased; but when you are older you will stretch out your hands, and another will tie you fast and carry you off against your will.” The ultimate test of discipleship is our willingness to abandon our egos and be carried by a power greater than ourselves.

– Bishop Robert Barron

 May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

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