Feed My Sheep

by Deacon Lorna Goodison on April 28, 2022

Have you ever received a breakfast invitation? This Sunday’s gospel (John 21:1-19) is set against the background of a breakfast invitation. It was daybreak, and the Risen Jesus appeared to His disciples for the third time.  In His resurrected glory Jesus directed the disciples to a large catch of fish, then invited them to share a meal. He said to them, “come and have breakfast.” The sharing of bread and fish and the common fellowship set the tone for Jesus’ conversation with Peter.

Three times Jesus asked, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Jesus’ words were a loving, yet piercing challenge that led Peter to face himself. He loved Jesus with brotherly love, but Jesus opened his eyes to see how much more he could grow in love. By His questions, Jesus extended His arms of love, friendship, and forgiveness, to Peter who had denied Him three times.

But Jesus was offering Peter more than a restored relationship. Jesus offered Peter a new relationship: a re-birth rooted in sacrificial love. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  (John 15:13).  Christ’s giving of Himself on the cross was motivated by sacrificial love. By His grace, Jesus welcomed Peter into divine love and invited him to offer himself for growth into faithful, sacrificial love. Then Peter would find the inner freedom to become the shepherd and guardian of souls. So, each time Peter affirmed his love for Jesus, Jesus commissioned him, “Feed my lambs.” “Tend my sheep.” “Feed my sheep.” 

 Soon, Jesus the Good Shepherd (John 10:11) would no longer be bodily present. Peter, the sheep whom Jesus had fed and nourished, would become the shepherd, feeding other sheep in the power of the Good Shepherd’s spirit. The re-born Peter was entrusted with the sacred and awesome responsibility of self-sacrificially nurturing and guiding God’s people with the good news of salvation through the love of Jesus Christ. And he was to feed all souls, from the spiritually immature lamb to the growing and the mature sheep.

Today, Peter’s commissioning proclaims God’s desire for all of us, frail human beings, to share in His own life, His mission on earth. What a mystical, humbling, yet uplifting task! As we fellowship with Jesus at the Eucharistic table, may we prayerfully contemplate, “how can I grow in love for Jesus?”  Hopefully, we will find the grace to live into Jesus’ call to shepherd God’s people out of the shadows of death into God’s abundant life!

Tags: love, salvation, good news, shepherd, friendship, relationship, nurture, guiding, feed my lambs, tend my sheep

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