One of the surprising stories from the Gospel of John is when Jesus asks Peter if he loves him. He asked the question not just once but three times. Each time Peter tells Jesus that he loves him, Jesus responds with, “Feed my sheep.” Just a short time before, Peter denied Jesus three times on the night before he died. Now he confesses three times that he loves Jesus.
The words “I love you” have significant meaning when they are said to someone who means a great deal to us. The meaning in this gospel story is very clear. Jesus is telling Peter that if he truly loves him his actions will reflect that love. “Feed my sheep.”
The words “Feed my sheep” are spoken to us as well. Just like Peter, God calls us, even with our human weakness to love him above all else. Each morning when we awaken we are called to give ourselves once again to our loving God. The response to that call is how we show our love not only to God but to others. Not everyone was, or even today, is able to make that yes a complete yes. There are still women and men of good will on practically every place on the continuum of life that go from a weak maybe at one end to a committed yes at the other end. Some days are easier to be at the yes end than others.
We know the famous words St. Augustine wrote in his Confessions, “Late have I loved you, O Beauty so ancient and so new. Late have I loved you!” This is the story for some of us who came to love and commit ourselves to God long after our baptism, first communion, confirmation, conversion or any other major step in our lives. The real commitment to love God and the people of God may have come with struggle, prayer and perseverance.
No matter how long ago we came to know God, or are still struggling to do so, we need to believe that it is a life-long process. Spiritual perfection is never achieved in anyone’s life here on earth. This is why prayer and perseverance are critical to a growing relationship with God.
One quote says that, “Love isn’t blind, it only sees what matters.” It took some of us a little longer than others to truly see what matters. Whether we took the role of the tortoise or the hare, we still try to deepen our relationship with our loving God. What is important is that we daily continue to say “I love you” to God and show that love by the way we treat others. “I love you” should always lead to “Feed my sheep.”
How has your relationship with God developed and deepened over time?
In what ways do you “Feed my sheep?”