Love and Responsibility
February 16, 2020
There’s no such thing as a free breakfast—or so Fr. Kasule told us in his homily along the shore of the Sea of Galilee.
We were celebrating Mass at the Church of the Primacy of Peter in the outdoor chapel. Gentle waves licked the rocks as Fr. Kasule elaborated on the Gospel reading from the 21st chapter of John.
Jesus had died on the cross and the disciples had returned to their old ways as fishermen. After a fruitless night at sea, a stranger told them to cast their nets to the other side. Upon realizing it was Jesus, Peter dove into the waters and swam to shore. There, Jesus said to him and to the others, “Come, have breakfast.”
The Gospel could have ended there and it would have been a pleasant passage. Jesus reveals himself, raised from the dead, and brings Peter a free breakfast.
Yet, Jesus draws Peter aside to ask him three times, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Talk about a direct question! Peter answers, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Then Jesus hits him with a three-fold command: “Feed my lambs…Tend my sheep…Feed my sheep.”
It was never a free breakfast after all! Jesus had weightyexpectations of Peter as the future pastor of his fold.
In his homily, Fr. Kasule made reference to John Paul II’s book Love and Responsibility. One cannot speak of love without speaking of responsibility. To demonstrate true affection, one must make an honest investment and take action.
Indeed, responsibility is not something extra added on to love. To take responsibility is to love. Jesus’ admonition to Peter, “Feed my sheep,” is not a condition placed on Jesus’ love for him. Rather, it is the true way that Peter can love the Lord.
I was acutely aware of the relevance of the Primacy of Peter for us as men preparing for ordination. As Peter was commanded to feed Jesus’ flock, so too will we be commissioned. We will servein parishes and schools, feeding God’s people with Jesus who is true food and true life.
Priestly ministry—and any vocation for that matter—is not some free gift without responsibility. Rather, it entails entering the lives of others, giving of oneself. “Feeding” and “tending” are the two verbs that show this most clearly.
As I went forward to receive the Eucharist, I reflected on how appropriate the “food” image is for Scripture and for our lives. We all have a great hunger for the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ. We all have a responsibility to feed those in our charge. Jesus showed this to Peter, and he shows it to us.
And so, there along the Sea of Galilee, where Peter encountered the risen Lord, we sang:
We praise you, Lord, for Peter,
So eager and so bold:
Thrice falling, yet repentant,
Thrice charged to feed your fold.
Lord, make your pastors faithful
To guard your flock from harm
And hold them when they waver
With your almighty arm.
Archdiocese of Dubuque