“Feed my lambs”

Today’s reading is from John 21:1-19. In this Year of Mercy, we are called to serve one another with mercy, not to be judgmental. To love God and thus to love and serve one another.

At that time, Jesus revealed himself again to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias.
He revealed himself in this way.
Together were Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus,
Nathanael from Cana in Galilee,
Zebedee’s sons, and two others of his disciples.
Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.”
They said to him, “We also will come with you.”
So they went out and got into the boat,
but that night they caught nothing.
When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore;
but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
Jesus said to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?”
They answered him, “No.”
So he said to them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat
and you will find something.”
So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in
because of the number of fish.
So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.”
When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord,
he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad,
and jumped into the sea.
The other disciples came in the boat,
for they were not far from shore, only about a hundred yards,
dragging the net with the fish.
When they climbed out on shore,
they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread.
Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you just caught.”
So Simon Peter went over and dragged the net ashore
full of one hundred fifty-three large fish.
Even though there were so many, the net was not torn.
Jesus said to them, “Come, have breakfast.”
And none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?”
because they realized it was the Lord.
Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them,
and in like manner the fish.
This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to his disciples
after being raised from the dead.

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus 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.”
Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
Jesus said to him the third time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was distressed that Jesus 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.”

Jesus has revealed Himself to this disciples. And after feeding them, He gives them His love and then asks Simon Peter – the rock of His church – “do you love me?” Jesus asks him this three times. And three times He tells Simon Peter to take care of His sheep – His people.

There are other theological implications to this reading, of course. But in reading this scripture, it dawns on me that in addition to speaking to Simon Peter and the other disciples Jesus is speaking directly to us.

“Do you love me?” Most of us would answer, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” And each time He asks us, we would more forcefully answer, “You know everything, you know that I love you.” And each time Jesus would say, “Tend my sheep” and “Feed my lambs.” Why? Because many of us aren’t tending or feeding Jesus’ lambs, His people — His children, His hungry, His poor, His orphaned and widowed, His divorced and remarried, His prisoners, His elderly, His disabled, His sick, His disenfranchised, the least of His brothers and sisters. We may be giving lip service to them, but we aren’t actually tending them.

God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son. Not just to give us a get out of jail card and a ticket to heaven. But also to take care of one another, to be disciples in the truest sense and follow in His Son’s example. Jesus preached many things, but among those things was taking care of one another. And unless you have a heart of stone, you realize that Jesus’s message was about love: Love of God and love of neighbor, neighbor being anyone other than yourself.

“Do you love me?” Yes, Jesus, I love you. “Feed my lambs.” Broadly speaking, love your neighbor and help them. And not just feed their bodies, but feed their spirits. Feed them spiritually with your love. Love God with all your heart, with all you mind, and with all your soul, and love your neighbor as yourself. Whoever they are.


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