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Feed My Sheep
Memorial of Saint Philip Neri, Priest
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.”
Opening Prayer: Lord, Pentecost is just days away. Send your Spirit to me so that I can enter into this seaside conversation between Peter and Jesus and learn what lessons you have for me there.
- You Know That I Love You: Three times Our Lord asked Peter, “Do you love me?” Peter, who had earlier denied Christ three times, replied with an enthusiastic “Yes, you know that I love you.” Peter’s love had failed him during Jesus’s Crucifixion, but he didn’t run away, attempt to isolate himself, or despair. Instead, Peter threw on some clothes and leapt into the water to be the first to greet Jesus on the seashore (John 21:7). We can only receive Our Lord’s limitless mercy, and a chance to make amends, when we draw near to him. “Let no one doubt concerning the goodness of God; even if a person’s sins were as dark as night, God’s mercy is stronger than our misery. One thing alone is necessary; that the sinner set ajar the door of his heart, be it ever so little, to let in a ray of God’s merciful grace, and then God will do the rest” (Divine Mercy 1507).
- Feed My Sheep: Peter was to become the first Pope and Jesus’s command, “Feed my sheep,” is traditionally interpreted as an invitation to priestly ministry. To be certain, priests, bishops and popes have a serious pastoral responsibility, but all of our Lord’s disciples bear a share of “priestly ministry.” Just as a priest “fosters holiness, precisely in the measure that he serves as a bridge between God and human beings…” so too baptized believers “serve as a bridge between God and human beings,” according to Bishop Barron. “They affect this through their own intense devotion to prayer, the sacraments, and the Mass. In their cultivation of a real friendship with the living Christ, they act out their priestly identity and purpose. Then, they are sent out into families, communities, places of work, the political and cultural arenas, etc., in order to carry the integration they have found like a holy contagion.”
- Stretch Out Your Hands: Jesus predicted how Peter would die—with his arms outstretched, nailed to a cross. Jesus set the example when he voluntarily placed his outstretched arms on the crossbeam as they were nailed to the Cross. Jesus glorified God. Peter glorified God. May we also, when the time comes, stretch out our hands in humble submission to whatever it is the Holy Spirit asks of us.
Conversing with Christ: Lord, like your disciples did, I deny you sometimes. Yet, by my Baptism, you have called me to be priest, prophet, and king. Please help me to honor to the trust you have in me by living ever more virtuously. I stretch out my hands in supplication, begging for the grace to please you in everything I do.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace, I will renew my Baptismal promises.
For Further Reflection: Our Baptismal Promises.
Written by Maribeth Harper
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