In our Gospel today from John 21:15-19, Jesus asks Peter if he loves him, and then says, “Feed my Lambs”. Jesus asks Peter again if he loves him, and then says, “Tend my sheep”. This may seem repetitive to us, but there is a big difference between feeding and tending.
Feeding implies the giving of food, which is an important gesture for us, but relatively simple and easy. Tending implies shepherding and being a good shepherd, which we know Jesus later explains may mean laying your life down for the flock. We are not sure Peter understood the difference, but Jesus is trying to gauge how committed and how deep Peter will go for him. Are we giving the needy a fish, or are we teaching them to fish? There is a big difference.
In our lives, are we doing the same? When we are helping others, are we giving them food, which is important, but is God asking us to go deeper and really shepherd others. Shepherding means not only seeing that they get food, but guiding and defending them on the journey, protecting them and doing whatever it takes for their well-being.
Peter’s response to these questions by Jesus eventually led him to his death.
How far are we willing to go for Jesus?
De Colores, Deacon Kevin