Do you love me? Then feed and tend my sheep. (John 21: 15-17)
The Scriptures are filled with stories of meals. As a student in theology, I was fascinated with the four Gospels, especially that of Luke, and the emphasis on the place, the function and the importance of meals. It was not just the meal itself but also what it provided the participants to share as well as who to become. From the changing of water into wine through the post-resurrection stories of meals, there was something that changed those who partook of the meal, whether it was to learn how to treat others and how to live or how to speak with others. Margaret Visser states that at the table not only is there physical nourishment of an individual but there is a cultural challenge as well. “We use eating as a medium for social relationships: satisfaction of the most individual of needs becomes a means of creating community.” (Introduction, The Rituals of Dinner, p. 1) This was also true at the time of Jesus. These meals in the Gospels often occurred at a table but not always. Today’s Gospel relates one of those incidents.
“. . . When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter . . . do you love me?” (John 21: 15)
Peter, and in turn, all of us, learn that the meal does not only give us strength and bodily nourishment but that nourishment is meant to be used for the betterment of all. Peter, who denied three times even knowing Jesus, now is challenged to nourish, care for, and strengthen the community in times of weakness and to support its triumphs in moments of joy.
Let us, likewise, be fed, so that we can feed others with a good word, a pat on the back for a job well-done, and help the weak to become strong. In essence, we not only create community, we sustain it with the life-giving food and drink that only Jesus can provide. “I have given you an example . . . feed my lambs . . . tend my sheep . . . feed my sheep”
Rev. Phil Smith, C.PP.S.