View all Gospel Reflections |
Forgiven and Fed
Friday of the Seventh Week of Easter
“When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He then said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to 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, I am here out of love for you. I want to follow you, and I want to feed your sheep. But I am weak, and I need to depend on your merciful love. Feed me with your love so I can in turn care for your sheep.
- Sincerity of Heart: Jesus waited until after he grilled the fish, served the disciples, and sat down and ate with them on the seashore to ask Simon Peter three times the burning question that was on his heart, “Do you love me?” He knew Peter as he knows each one of us. Peter was human, he was weak, he betrayed his Lord at the moment Jesus needed him most. Surely he had already told Jesus he was sorry, poured out his heart, and received forgiveness for the worst sin of all sins—denial of his best friend, brother, and, as he once testified in his own words, the “Messiah, the Son of the Living God” (Matthew 16:16). Why did Jesus ask him three times to affirm his love and his conviction to follow him? Jesus wanted to hear that Peter was willing to remain the faithful leader chosen to “tend [his] sheep.” Peter had to come face-to-face with his own inability to love perfectly, in order to reaffirm his commitment to Christ and his desire to “feed [Jesus’s] sheep.”
- It’s All in a Name: Jesus called Peter “Simon, son of John,” rather than addressing him as “Peter.” He hadn’t called Peter “son of John” since Peter first received his new name when he testified that Jesus was the “Messiah, Son of the Living God” (Matthew 16:16). Peter must have been shaken and perhaps a bit trepidatious since the memory of his denial was still fresh in his mind. Jesus was about to offer Peter an opportunity for reparation and restoration, from his former self to the preeminent leader of the new church Jesus was founding. “Jesus’s look of infinite mercy drew tears of repentance from Peter and, after the Lord’s resurrection, a threefold affirmation of love for him” (CCC 1429).
- Follow Me: Peter’s interior transformation was a conversion of heart that resulted in his recommitment to follow Christ, even after Jesus foretold his martyrdom. Peter’s experience was “one of those sorrowful outpourings that impoverish us but are ultimately profitable because they show us our powerlessness and oblige us from then on to trust exclusively in God’s mercy and faithfulness” (Interior Freedom, Jacques Philippe, 100).
Conversing with Christ: Lord, you know everything. You have seen me at my best and at my worst. Give me the conviction to renew my desire to follow you even after I fall. You are always there, ready to pour the Holy Spirit on my wounds and heal me.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will make an act of contrition for my sins, and schedule a time to go to reconciliation in the coming week.
For Further Reflection: An excellent examination of conscience.
Leah Nguyen, mom to six children ranging in age from nine to twenty-four, resides in Kansas City with her deacon husband. She graduated with a master’s degree in theology from Holy Apostles College in 2019, which helps her lead Bible studies in her parish as well as defend the Catholic faith when talking with her teenagers.