Flock of Sheep and Shepherd in an Open Landscape in Summer,
Painted by Alexandre Defaux (1826-1900),
Painted late 19th century
Oil on canvas
© Dorotheum Vienna / Alamy

Flock of Sheep and Shepherd in an Open Landscape in Summer,
Painted by Alexandre Defaux (1826-1900),
Painted late 19th century
Oil on canvas
© Dorotheum Vienna / Alamy

Gospel of 3 June 2022

Feed my lambs, feed my sheep

John 21: 15-19

Jesus showed himself to his disciples, and after they had eaten he said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others do?’ He answered, ‘Yes Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He replied, ‘Yes, Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Look after my sheep.’ Then he said to him a third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was upset that he asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ and said, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.

‘I tell you most solemnly,

when you were young

you put on your own belt

and walked where you liked;

but when you grow old

you will stretch out your hands,

and somebody else will put a belt round you

and take you where you would rather not go.’

 

In these words he indicated the kind of death by which Peter would give glory to God. After this he said, ‘Follow me.’

Reflection on the painting

Just before Jesus was crucified, Peter denied Jesus three times. In our Gospel reading today, the risen Jesus now asks Peter three times, ‘Do you love me?’ Jesus thus gave Peter the opportunity to reverse his threefold denial. By asking the question ‘Do you love me?’ three times, Jesus prompted Peter to make a fresh start. Even though Peter had been unfaithful to Jesus in his greatest hour of need, Jesus remained faithful to him.

When Peter answered each time ‘Yes Lord, you know I love you’ Jesus was ready to move on. The air was cleared and Jesus tenderly built upon this magnificent moment of mercy: he appointed Peter as the chief shepherd in his church. He instructed Peter: ’Feed my lambs, feed my sheep’.

As we see in this depiction of a shepherd in our late 19th- century painting by Alexandre Defaux, feeding sheep means much more than just providing food. It refers to the entire work of a shepherd: nurturing, guiding, tending, protecting, healing and caring for his sheep. Peter was now being asked to nurture the very first believers in Christ and help build his Church. But we too are called to shepherd one another and to care for and look out for one another.

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Ron Clarke
Member
Ron Clarke(@ronhc)
6 months ago

I love this passage. Jesus expresses such love and grace, but also such a non-judgemental, yet piercing and effective way of facing the reality of what Peter did to him in denying him. I feel the sense of reiease that Peter must feel in knowing that Jesus forgives him; also the incredible sense of empowerment that Peter must have experienced as Jesus not only forgave, but expressed the respect he had and value he felt for Peter. What a powerful way to nurture, lead and disciple someone so that they can live life in all fullness!

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien(@marispiper)
6 months ago

I cared for my aunt in her old age and she would quote those words all the time… someone will put a belt round your waist and take you where you would rather not go. We both used to laugh, even though it was not really funny…RIP Auntie.
Lovely image today and tender words from Christ in the gospel.

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