Lectio Divina: John 21:15-19
1) Opening prayer
Lord our God,
You have appointed shepherds in Your Church
to speak Your word to us
and to build community in Your name.
We pray You today:
May they be shepherds like Your Son
who look for those who have lost the way,
bring back the stray, bandage the wounded
and make the weak strong.
May they all be ministers
of Your tender love and service,
as Jesus was, Your Son and our Lord.
2) Gospel Reading - John 21:15-19
After Jesus had revealed himself to his disciples and eaten breakfast with them, he said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" Simon Peter answered him, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my lambs." He then said to Simon Peter a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Simon Peter answered him, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." He said to him, "Tend my sheep." He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, "Do you love me?" and he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep. Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him, "Follow me."
• We are in the last days before Pentecost. During the time of Lent, the selection of the Gospels of the day continues the ancient tradition of the Church. Between Easter and Pentecost, the Gospel of John is preferred. And thus, during these last days before Pentecost, the Gospels of the day narrate the last verses of the Gospel of John. When we return to Ordinary Time, we will go back to the Gospel of Mark. In the weeks of Ordinary Time, the Liturgy proceeds to a continuous reading of the Gospel of Mark (from the 1st to the 9th week of Ordinary Time), of Matthew (from the 10th to 21st week of Ordinary Time) and of Luke (from the 22nd to the 34th week of Ordinary Time).
• The Gospel readings for today and tomorrow speak about Jesus’ last encounter with His disciples. It was an encounter of celebration, marked by tenderness and affection. At the end Jesus calls Peter and asks him three times, “Do you love Me?” Only after having received three times the same affirmative response, Jesus entrusts to Peter the mission of taking care of the sheep. In order to be able to work in the community, Jesus does not ask many things of us. What He asks of us is to have much love!
• John 21:15-17: Love at the center of the mission. After a whole night of fishing in the lake catching not even one fish, they go to the shore. The disciples discover that Jesus has prepared bread and roasted fish for them. When they finish eating, Jesus calls Peter and asks him three times, “Do you love Me?” Three times, because Peter denied Jesus three times (Jn 18:17,25-27). After the three affirmative responses, Peter also becomes a “Beloved Disciple” and receives the order to take care of the sheep. Jesus does not ask Peter if he has studied exegesis, theology, morals, or canon law. He only asks, “Do you love Me?” Love in the first place. For the communities of the Beloved Disciple the force which supports and maintains unity is love.
• John 21:18-19: The foreshadowing of death. Jesus tells Peter, “Truly I tell you: 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 around you and take you where you do not want to go!” Throughout life, Peter, and we too, gain maturity. The practice of love will take root in life and people will no longer be the bosses of their own life. Service to the brothers and sisters out of love will prevail and will lead us. How we dress is often a reflection or necessity of the work we do. If we choose to accept it, God can “dress” us in new clothing for a new destination according to His wants, and send us where we may not want to go. Somebody else will put a belt around you and take you where you would rather not go. Fro Peter there is a the meaning, as the Evangelist comments: “He tells him this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would give glory to God.” Then Jesus adds: “Follow Me.”
• Love in John – Peter, do you love Me? – The Beloved Disciple. The word love is one of the words which we use most nowadays. Precisely because of this, it is a word that has been greatly worn out. But the communities of the Beloved Disciple manifested their identity and their own intentions by this word. To love, is above all, a profound experience of relationship among people in which similar sentiments and values prevail - a care and concern for the other over oneself, as well as joy, sadness, suffering, growth, renunciation, dedication, fulfillment, gift, commitment, life, death. All these together are summarized in the Bible in one single word in the Hebrew language. This word is hesed. It is hard to translate into our language. Generally, in our Bibles it is translated by charity, mercy, fidelity or loving kindness. The communities of the Beloved Disciple sought to live this practice of love in a very radical way. Jesus revealed this in His encounters with people with sentiments of friendship and tenderness, as for example, in His relationship with the family of Martha and Mary of Bethany: “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” He weeps before the tomb of Lazarus (Jn 11:5,33-36). Jesus always embodies His mission in a manifestation of love: “having loved His own, He loved them to the end” (Jn 13:1). In this love, Jesus manifests His profound identity with the Father (Jn 15:9). For His communities there was no other commandment except this one: “to act as Jesus acted” (1 Jn 2:6). This presupposes “love of the brethren” (1 Jn 2:7-11; 3:11-24; 2 Jn 4-6). Being such a central commandment in the life of the community, love is defined by John as follows: “This is the proof of love that He laid down His life for us and we too ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” Our love should not be just words or mere talk but something active and genuine.” (1 Jn 3:16-17). Anyone who lives this love and manifests it in words and attitudes becomes a Beloved Disciple.
4) For Personal Consideration
• Look within yourself and say, “What is the most profound reason that motivates me to work in the community – love, or a concern for ideas?”
• Jesus asks Peter three times. Each time he answers you can feel a rising tension, one that says “what can I do to show you if you don’t believe me?” It isn’t a casual conversation. Do I have this forcefulness in responding to Jesus in my life, or just a casualness?
• Do I allow myself to be dressed by someone else for service to others? Do I go where He leads me? Is my attitude my answer to Jesus’ question: “Follow Me.”?
• What is “my life”? It is not only biological. It is also lifestyle, actions, and identity that come from ego, pride, and self-will. There is something in common though: To “lay down one’s life” has a totality to it. Do I “lay down” my pride, ego, will, wants, and lifestyle for others in my community, or for the “little ones”, the poor or rejected? Is it in totality, or just when it is convenient?
5) Concluding Prayer
Bless Yahweh, my soul,
from the depths of my being, His holy name;
bless Yahweh, my soul,
never forget all His acts of kindness. (Ps 103:1-2)