by Br. Noel Corcino (cjm)
“Do you love me?”…”Feed my sheep”. In this dialogue, Jesus alludes the most important role of Peter in establishing the Church. Peter is being reinstituted to lead the Church, who eventually became the “rock”. To most people, entrusting the crucial task to someone who fearfully denied being your follower three times seems to be a result of poor judgment. Definitely this idea does not simply lingered in everyone’s mind without consideration of that dialogue between Jesus and Peter that led to the perpetuation of the mission of God.
In this gospel, we can see another profound dimension apart from the commissioning. Looking back at how Jesus shared his life and established rapport with them, his association with the Twelve had no stratification, He called them all “friends”, his trusted circle. Undoubtedly, the disciples were surprised of having been chosen but Christ’s example would always make them realize the value of self-giving to pave deeper cultivation of fraternal relationship, and eventually learn to love, trust, and accept each other as unique individuals united as one in God’s fold.
In the first periscope of the gospel, Peter was one of the disciples who went fishing. A depiction of a previously established relationship. In fact, as they moved on from the shore their previous connection was re-lived for no one of the disciples bothered to ask who Jesus was that hinted their recognition of the risen Christ. In fact, when Peter was being asked for the third time, he felt very sad because he vividly recalled of his denial when Jesus got handed over for crucifixion. Peter felt guilty of being weak and unworthy of ever being called a disciple of Christ. Yet, the reinstatement of Peter back to the fold was not a spur of the moment but a treasured relationship that was reassured of forgiveness in times of weakness and stronger brotherhood bonded by faith in Christ Jesus. And, before Peter sulked in his guilt, Jesus asked him for the last time, and finally with full trust told him, “feed my sheep”.
In our own journey in faith with the Lord, we also need to be reinstated to grace just like Peter because we constantly fall short in our commitment to follow the Lord. Jesus is also asking us “Do you love me?” but it took time for him to say “feed my sheep” because we don’t show remorse of our failures. We are reluctant to say “yes Lord I love you” because our heart is full of pride, resentment, envy, and craving for power. All these harbored ill feelings hinders us from accepting the responsibility to “feed the sheep” of God in the fold. Nevertheless, the Lord is not tired of our countless denial of him because he treasures every encounter we have with Him in our lifetime. “Not even a single strand of our hair” that he left forgotten. God’s trust in us doesn’t build on our perfection and strict observance of laws. It is more on the sincerity of heart to humble before him that He deems us worthy despite our frailties thus we need him to pull us up into his fold again ready to assume a great responsibility like Peter.
“Yes Lord, you know that I love you,” Peter meant much when he uttered this, he was resolved to commit his life to the will of God. Figuratively, when he was young in faith, he would put on his clothes and go where he wanted as such he was perceived arrogant and straight-forward regardless of who would be offending. But now as his faith matured, Peter willfully resolved to follow where God wants him to go, even to giving his life if it means “feeding the Sheep” as what Jesus told him to do. Peter is seen as wise enough to understand Jesus’ desire to reaffirm his importance as his disciples who is capable of leading the Church.
The world today is in great dilemma in its ways of feeding the people to be firm in faith and strengthen the Church with love and discipline. And once again we are asked by God with same question: “Do you love me?” If we do, then let’s help feed the world with the bread that satisfy the starving souls through kindness, positive attitude and acts of charity. Ironic as it may seem, since we also need the grace to be sustained in our faith, let us remember that God is not capable of mistakes, and if He sees us worthy to prove that we are instruments for the growth of the Church, he would surely delighted. Let us trust in Him and give justice to His efforts in reinstating our mission for the greater plan in salvation.