Friday, May 22, 2015

Feed My Sheep

Friday of the Seventh Week of Easter
By Colleen O’Sullivan
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.”  (John 21:15-17).

For as the heavens are high above the earth, so surpassing is his kindness toward those who fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has he put our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:11-12)

Peter has to be dealing with all sorts of emotions.  In the verses before today’s reading, Jesus, he and some of the other disciples have shared a meal cooked over a charcoal fire.  The last time we read about Peter and Jesus in connection with a charcoal fire, they were in the high priest’s courtyard, Jesus about to be questioned and Peter denying any acquaintance with his friend.  (Jn 18:18)  Now Peter, full of shame and remorse, doesn’t say anything.  It’s Jesus who initiates the conversation.  In English, lose some of the nuances of the conversation.  The first two times Jesus asks Peter if Peter loves him, he uses the word agape, the type of love which is pure and selfless and seeks the well-being of the other.  Peter answers him using the word phileo, which is the type of affection we might have for a close friend.  Uppermost in Peter’s mind must be his betrayal of his friend, and there’s no way he can say he loves Jesus selflessly.  The third time Jesus asks Peter if he loves him, he, too, uses the term for brotherly love, phileo.  Three denials counterbalanced by three affirmations of love.

We’ve all been in Peter’s shoes at one time or another, hurting and betraying a close friend or loved one.  We know we need to say we’re sorry and to ask for forgiveness, but sometimes the shame and guilt hold us back.  We can’t even bring ourselves to look the other in the eye.  The beautiful thing about this passage is that Jesus doesn’t wait for Peter to say a thing.  The Risen Christ reaches out and raises his friend from the death of sin and despair.  He then goes beyond forgiveness and turns over the care and feeding of his flock to Peter.  If you truly love me, follow in my footsteps.  Look after all those whom I love.  I entrust them to you.

Our God is a compassionate, forgiving God who sent his Son into the world to heal sinners.  When you are praying today, open your heart to Jesus.  Share with him what needs forgiving in your life. Let him lift from you the burden of sin as he did Peter.  Listen as he asks you, too, to continue his work in the world.

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