“…Tend my sheep. Feed my lambs…”

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Today we’ve been given a choice of two Gospels – although they’re similar, one has an extended ending that we don’t often hear. This part of the narrative begins after Jesus fixed breakfast for the disciples. Jesus and Peter had a “little conversation,” and it might have just been between the two of them. Do you remember when Peter denied Jesus three times after he was taken prisoner in the garden? This is where Peter had a chance to make things right. It couldn’t have been easy.

Jesus asked Peter twice – do you love me? But first, he asked “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these”… Each time, Peter said “Yes.” Yet, it seems to me that Jesus was asking, “do you love me more than your friends, your family, your companions?” It’s a serious question we need to ask ourselves. We could be asked to leave – or oppose – our friends, as well, if we do as Jesus asks. It would take courage.

But Jesus continued…he said “Tend my sheep,” then “Feed my lambs.” I believe that those commands are for us, as well. Take care of our elders, take care of our children, while you are strong and able to do it. Because at the close of the conversation, Jesus reminds Peter that when he was younger, he could dress himself – but as he gets old, someone will have to help him. Worse, yet, he will be led where he didn’t want to go. The writer of the gospel proposes that Jesus was telling Peter what kind of death he will have, but to me, it speaks more to the Circle of Life.

Now, I don’t want to borrow from Disney, but isn’t that the way that life goes? Don’t the mature and strong sometimes need to be reminded about their responsibilities to elders and children? Elders – who raised and educated them and prepared them for life? Children – who still need to learn how to live good lives? We know the Native Americans saying that “whatever we do will affect our descendants to the seventh generation.” As we know, it’s not all about us…

Dorothy A. Hathway, CSJA