On Day 33, we mentioned Simon Peter denying Jesus three times after confessing his love for Him, and how Jesus not only forgave him but also empowered him to lead His Church, which is unbelievable and unimaginable!
Today, let us zoom in on another interesting encounter between Jesus and Peter in which Jesus confirmed Peter’s role as the leader of the Church to feed His sheep. There at the Sea of Tiberias, “When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, 'Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, 'Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.’ He said to him, 'Feed my lambs.’” (John 21:15) And we know that Jesus repeated a similar question two more times. When Jesus asked the first question, He used the Greek word “agape” (agapao) which is the highest form of love, the love of God for man, an unconditional love that transcends everything to the point of laying down one's life for others. But when Peter answered Jesus, he used another Greek word “phileo”, which means brotherly love. We can see a sharp difference between the level of their love for each other. In human terms, we know this kind of unbalanced relationship won't last long. Not in the case of God's love for us. God is patient, God is kind, He is everything LOVE is. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8) Jesus knew that Simon Peter was not up to par, but He knew that Peter put Him at the centre of his life. When Jesus asked Peter the third time, He lowered the bar to ask Peter if he “phileo” Him, and Peter confirmed once more his love for Him, knowing that Jesus accepted his limitations with a hope that Peter would one day “agape” Jesus in return. This is the story of St. Peter. What about our own stories with Jesus?
Jesus knows that we are weak, we are imperfect, He knows us better than we do. He does not force us to love Him the way He expects but accepts and embraces us as we are because love respects freedom, which is the nature of love. Nonetheless, God agape us all the same, with a hope that one day we will return our unconditional love to Him.
See also how Jesus still allowed St. Peter to take on such an important leading role in the Church even though Peter was not there yet. God also understands that we are not there yet. Nonetheless, that doesn't dampen His LOVE for us nor refrain from granting us important responsibilities. As He loves us and knows our limitations and there is no reason that He wants his assignments for us to fail, He will certainly empower us as we take on such tasks we ourselves are not capable of completing. With His help, we will certainly conquer any hurdles that block us from completing His work.
Just as St. Peter was not afraid to take on the daunting task to lead the Church because he put Christ at the centre of his life, so must we follow his role model. Afterall, isn’t he Jesus’s assigned shepherd, and thus a role model, for the whole Church?