Friday, 7th week of Easter 05/29/20
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was asked this famous question three times not long after he had denied the Lord three times during the passion: “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” I’m guessing Peter was feeling a sense of betrayal over his actions. He was probably pondering his lack of faith and how he turned his back on the Lord.
Yet, the Lord’s response was not to call out Peter, or make him feel ashamed. The Lord’s response was to allow Peter grow from the experience. If Peter had not made that fateful mistake, could he feed the sheep to the level of forgiving those who would betray him or turn their back on him? Without that fearful experience, could Peter feed the lambs to the point of facing his own execution and death?
We are all asked this question by the Lord, “Do you love me?” We all probably answer very similarly to Peter, “Yes Lord, you KNOW that I love you.” And Jesus responds, “Tend my sheep.” Jesus responds, “Love one another as I love you.” Just as the Lord did not focus on Peter’s betrayal, but rather on Peter’s ability to love, He does the same for us. He wants us to recognize our sins and our failures, but not to call us to task. He wants us to remember them so we, in turn, can forgive others and tend the sheep.
We are all sinners and, like Peter, have denied the Lord repeatedly. We have all made choices to turn our back to Him out of fear or shame. Yet the Lord always welcomes us back with open arms. He always loves us and forgives our sins. He doesn’t hold it against us or shame us. He only asks only that we return that love and forgiveness to each other.
The first time Jesus poses this question to Peter, he adds the phrase, “more than these”: “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” Most scholars interpret that to mean, “do you love me more than these other disciples love me”.
The response “Feed my lambs” then, means “if you love me MORE, then you’ll have to tend/love them (the church) more”. The more Peter or we claim to love the Lord, the more we must love those who hurt, persecute and ridicule us.
There is no room in the mission Jesus has given us to only “be good to those who are good to us”. We must “feed the sheep” and “tend the lambs” even when they sin, betray us or turn their back on us.
As we prepare to receive the Holy Spirit at Pentacost, let us take time today to pray for one another. Let us take time to forgive someone in our hearts. Maybe, if we are so moved, we might even reach out to them and forgive them with a note or a phone call.
Let us take time to pray to the Lord that we might be better at forgiving and “feeding the sheep” in our lives. Let us pray that we will receive the faith and strength of the Holy Spirit, to carry on as Peter did, as forgiven members of His church. Let us pray that we may soon be together to celebrate as One Body at the table of the Lord.
Come Holy Spirit