…Do you love me?…Feed my sheep…
Three times, Jesus asks Peter ‘do you love me’; three times, following Peter’s ‘yes, Lord’ Jesus commands ‘feed my sheep’.
What is it about ‘three times?’ We can make a connection to the three times that Peter denied him around the charcoal fire. We could perhaps connect it to the Holy Trinity. Perhaps the significance of three times is found in faceted dimensions of what it means to ‘feed’.
Peter is a disciple, a follower, a learner. This is a Resurrection appearance, a shared meal, a conversation. The passage concludes with a final command Follow me. Could this sharing with Peter have been more for our benefit that his?
How do we recognize the risen Christ in our day to day lives? How do we respond when we hear the question ‘do you love me?’ How do we feed His sheep?
As a parent, as a caregiver, as a member of a family, to feed means more than simply providing food. It means planning, preparing, serving; it means nurturing, companioning, challenging; it means modeling, leading, guiding; to feed is to take care of needs. To feed is to give others what they need to help them grow – not just physically, but what they need to grow in ‘wisdom and grace’.
How do we help another grow in their understanding of Jesus and his words? How do we help another grow in their desire to turn toward God for inner strength? How do we nurture another to grow in their awareness that they belong to God? How do we lead Jesus’ sheep to a deeper relationship with God?
Faith Offman is the Associate Director of Ministry at St. Paul of the Cross Passionist Retreat and Conference Center in Detroit, Michigan.