The Gospel for this Sunday is particularly touching. We recall that Peter had denied Jesus three times after Jesus’ arrest, and before His death. Sometime after the Resurrection, Jesus met with the disciples on the shore of Galilee. During that time, He took Peter aside and asked him, “Peter, do you love me?” “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Again, Jesus asked, “Peter, do you love me?” Peter said, “Yes, Lord. I love you.” A third time Jesus asked, “Peter, do you love me?” Hurt, Peter said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.”
Jesus was giving Peter an opportunity to heal their friendship, which Peter had damaged by his denials. But this must have been a painful and humiliating experience for Peter. Healing is often painful and difficult. Certainly, the healing of relationships demands courage, humility, a willingness to face one’s wrongs and failings, and to forgive the hurts that others have inflicted upon us. After each of the questions asking Peter if he loves Jesus, Jesus instructs Peter to feed His sheep, and tend His sheep.
Jesus asks each of us today, “Do you love me?” Many of us, like Peter, have failed Jesus in many ways and have to ask ourselves, “Do I really love Jesus? Does the way I live my life give evidence of one who loves Jesus?” These are scary questions to ask ourselves. Elsewhere in the Gospel, Jesus asks a man, “Do you believe that I can do this?” The man responds, “I do believe. Help my unbelief.” I think I would have to respond to Jesus’ question about whether I love him with, “I do love you. Help my lack of love for you.” My guess is that many of you would have to answer the same way.
We demonstrate our love for Jesus in much the same way as Peter. We love Jesus’ sheep, we tend His lambs. Remember Matthew 25, “Whatsoever you do for the least of my brothers and sisters, you do for me.”
–Fr. Mike Comer