After they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these do?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” And Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
A second time Jesus said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” And Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Look after my sheep.” And a third time he said to him, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was saddened because Jesus asked him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
Jesus then said, “Feed my sheep! Truly, I say to you, when you were young, you put on your belt and walked where you liked. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will put a belt around you, and lead you where you do not wish to go.”
Jesus said this to make known the kind of death by which Peter was to glorify God. And he added, “Follow me!”
In today’s gospel reading we hear that three times Jesus asks Peter, “do you love me?”, and upon Peter’s strong positive answer, what does Jesus say? “I love you, Peter?” or “I forgive you your betrayal of last week, Peter?” No, Jesus turns Peter’s attention away from both of them and towards Peter’s brothers: “Take care of my flock, Peter.”
At this point we can reflect on ourselves and on our relationship with Jesus. Like Peter, we are Jesus’ ardent followers. But, also like Peter, we have betrayed Jesus many times by not living out faithfully all his teachings. So much so that we are ashamed of ourselves. But Jesus, as in the case of Peter, gives us an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to him. He asks us, “Jim, Faye, Brian, Diane—do you love me?” Then after reassuring him that we do love him, although badly, what does he tell us? “Take care of my flock.” In other words, the best way to express our love for Jesus is to continue doing what we are doing: raising our kids, earning a decent living, earning a degree, serving our neighbor in need. Let us do this with our whole heart and Jesus will never leave our side.
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