The Gospel for today reads, in part: “When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’
‘Yes, Lord,’ he said, ‘you know that I love you.’
Jesus said, ‘Feed my lambs.’
Again Jesus said, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’
He answered, ‘Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’
Jesus said, ‘Take care of my sheep.’
The third time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ He said, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.’
Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep. Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.’ Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, ‘Follow me!'” (Jn. 21:15-19)
Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him, corresponding to the times that Peter denied the Lord during His passion. Peter was hurt but he answered three times after every question that he loved Him. And each time, the Lord asked him to feed and to look after His sheep.
I have always heard Peter being described as having an impulsive nature, like when Jesus transfigured on Mt. Tabor and Peter said to the Lord that he would build three tents, one for Him, one for Moses and one for Elijah. The Gospel said that Peter did not know what he was saying. But how I love Peter in the Gospels! He was always open and spontaneous, a stark contrast to Judas Iscariot who was always calculating and scheming.
At Caesarea Philippi, when Jesus asked the apostles who the people said that He was, they answered that some said He was John the Baptist, the others, Elijah, and still others, one of the prophets. But when Jesus asked them again, “Who do you say that I am?” the apostles could not decide on their answer. It was Peter who firmly said, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.” (Mt. 16:16) Jesus was so happy about the answer of Peter that He said, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.” (Mt. 16:17) One’s openness could be a tool for God to reveal His secrets, in the same manner that one’s calculating and scheming attitude, as that of Judas Iscariot, could be an obstacle to God’s graces.
Jesus knew Peter through and through. He knew when the Father was speaking through Peter, and when Satan was speaking through him. Thus, when Jesus said to the apostles that He had to go to Jerusalem and suffer and die there, and Peter rebuked the Lord and said “Never, Lord! … This shall never happen to you!”, Jesus said to Him sternly, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Mt. 16:23)
If Jesus would ask me, “Do you love Me more than these”, He would have to ask me, not three times corresponding to the denials of Peter, but an infinite number of times corresponding to the infinite number of times that I have offended Him and denied Him. And for an infinite number of times, I would have to answer Him, “I love You.” And for each of my infinite answers, He would ask me to feed His sheep. Even before Jesus asked the question, he knew the answer. Peter said, “You know everything, Lord.” Jesus knew about Peter’s great love for Him, and likewise knew his weaknesses. And despite all His knowledge, Jesus entrusted His Church to Peter. “You are Peter, the rock, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.” (Mt. 16:18)
God knows all. He knew the kind of death that Peter would have by which he would give glory to God. In the same breath, God knew then the kind of death that Judas Iscariot would have and his treachery that would precede his death. I was pondering one time on this omniscience and foreknowing of God. I thought that even at this moment, God knows what would be at the end of times. He knows right now if I will spend eternity with Him, the kind of death that I would have, and the quality of life and love in between. I prayed solemnly to God that in the great scheme of things in His Mind, He would grant me that grace and privilege of belonging to Him in all eternity, even before He planned to create me in my mother’s womb.
“Do you love Me more than these?” Jesus knows me through and through. He knows my love as well as my denials and betrayals. But the best part is that Jesus loves me through and through and relies on me to feed His sheep. The number of my denials is the same number that He will ask me if I love Him and the same number that He will ask me to feed His sheep.
Talking about numbers and repetitions, this very post had to be done twice. The first time I posted it, it said “UNAUTHORIZED.” I never exited from my wordpress account, but it had to ask for my user name and password. When I did so, the entire draft was gone. Jesus asked me twice today, “Do you love Me more than these?” And I had to answer Him twice today through this post that I loved Him.