Meal time together is part of Jesus’ daily living with His disciples. It is interesting how stories are told about meals – this is a sharing which speaks about the person’s life experience. Whether or not you think the stories are interesting, we still may gain knowledge about the person. It is one way of knowing the other. No judgement. In any case, who are we to judge?
Among the stories of Jesus, I recall once again the story that was from after the days of Jesus’ resurrection. The apostles had gone fishing but they caught nothing. Jesus, who was on the shore, prepared their breakfast but at first they did not recognise Him. Noticing them from afar, Jesus instructed them to put down their nets to the other side of the boat and to their surprise fish filled their nets. One of the apostles then recognised Jesus’ presence. After a big catch of fish they were happy and celebrated this moment with the breakfast.
After that meal, Jesus got the chance to question Simon Peter. It was a surprising question from Jesus. Three times, He asked,
“Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”John 21: 15-17
This is a surprising question from Jesus to Peter, asked three times as He did. It was not easy to give Him a direct answer. Anyone today could throw back the same question to another – this could be between a husband and wife, a Mum or Dad to their children, or between friends or lovers. This particular question could be asked by those who are close in a relationship to seek affirmation of the level of that relationship. If God asks this question to us, it will lead us to deeply meditate, contemplate, and make a good examination of our conscience. It will uncover how deep or shallow our love is and reveal our inmost being. We can also ask God how much He loves us just as He is asking us how much we love Him. We may discover how much He loves us and how little is our response to Him.
Jesus in the Gospel asked this of Peter and each time He asked this same question of Peter, Jesus provided a specific action. Jesus told us the specific act of how to love. He said twice to feed – to feed the lamb and the other to feed the sheep – and once He said to tend my sheep. He said that in loving Him is to feed and to tend.
To love is to feed, to give food and to nourish the other. There are many ways how to feed the people, like to feed with spiritual nourishment with the Eucharist, the spiritual banquet offered by God. To feed with the food of the Word of God and to provide food nourishment for the body of the people. That is why Jesus twice mentioned ‘to feed’. The celebration of the Eucharist is important because in the Holy Mass this is Jesus showing His great love for us, His longing to be with us and in our lives. In fact, Jesus is with us always. He became bread for us. He told Peter to continue the celebration of the agape, to do this in memory of Him. It is so important, the feeding, as a sign of His great love for us. The simple agape of sharing food is important because it is the grace that we are thankful to be together and united in the celebration.
Similarly, tending the sheep is another way of loving as Jesus said to Peter. It is not enough to love, to have the celebration of the Eucharist but also to give good service to others as a sign of care. Loving is shown in ways to feed and to care. These are practical applications of how to give love as Jesus advised Peter.
Jesus, you give us ways of how to give love to anyone, to feed the sheep, to feed the lamb. Who are they? And in giving love we also receive love.
Lord God, help us to have the courage to be generous in giving love for others.