On this third Sunday of Easter, Jesus once again reveals himself to the disciples. In this beautiful scene at the Sea of Tiberias, through a series of three questions, Jesus forgives Peter’s denial in the courtyard on Holy Thursday evening. In this exchange, the first question is nuanced by the phrase “more than these.” Perhaps Jesus is asking if Peter loves him more than the other disciples do or perhaps Jesus is asking if Peter loves him more than ordinary pursuits such as fishing and having an ordinary life. In any case, this scene by the sea both forgives Peter his past sin of denying Jesus and commissions him to be the leader of the disciples.
At the heart of the ministry of shepherding is love of the sheep.
This is a good reminder for all who exercise some kind of shepherding function, whether as a boss, or a supervisor, or a pastor, or head of a committee. If the lead person does not love those over whom he or she has been placed, their ministry will fall flat. This is especially true in the Church. If we cannot love those with whom we work and which have been placed in our care, then why are we doing ministry? I suspect that that is the number one reason why some priests, deacons, and pastoral ministers “burn out.” It is not because of overwork. It is because of a lack of love.
When we fail to love or when we fall “out of love,” that is when we begin to have problems. The two Greek words for love used in this passage are “agape” and “philia.” Agape refers to that deep, spiritual communion that binds people together. Philia is the kind of love that is akin to friendship. Each of us should strive to develop (at the minimum) a philia kind of love toward our fellow human beings. As Christians, as we grow in the Lord, our love should deepen to that of agape, especially for our family members and friends.
As you continue to celebrate this Easter season, may your love grow and deepen to become truly like that of Christ.