O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
Risen, ascended Lord,
as we rejoice at your triumph,
fill your Church on earth with power and compassion,
that all who are estranged by sin
may find forgiveness and know your peace,
to the glory of God the Father.
Psalm 103.1-2, 11-12, 19-20
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me bless his holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits;
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so great is his mercy upon those who fear him.
As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he set our sins from us.
The Lord has established his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom has dominion over all.
Bless the Lord, you angels of his,
you mighty ones who do his bidding
and hearken to the voice of his word.
Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now
and shall be for ever. Amen.
Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’
A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’
He said to him the third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter felt hurt because he said to him the 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. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.’ (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, ‘Follow me.’
Jesus asked Peter: Do you love me?
Having spent some days reflecting on different aspects of Jesus’ prayer for his disciples at the Last Supper, today we move to the very end of John’s gospel. We have moved from the time when Jesus foretold Peter’s denial of having known him, to the moment of their reconciliation and healing.
In this familiar encounter between the risen Jesus and Peter, there is a very human moment for us to pause and consider. Peter’s triple denial of Jesus outside the court of the High Priest is matched by Jesus asking the question, Do you love me? … three times. It is after Jesus asks for the third time that we see an unjustified bout of human petulance. We read that Peter felt hurt. Three times Jesus was denied by Peter, just as had been predicted, and yet we are told that Peter felt hurt.
Jesus was healing a wound, closing an unfortunate chapter in their relationship. The three denials were absolved by the three declarations of love, and yet, Peter felt hurt!
Despite his very human hurt and impatience at being asked the same thing three times we need to then reflect on what followed. Jesus did not turn to Peter and say, ‘Never mind, all is forgotten.’ Instead, Jesus honoured Peter’s call to be the rock upon which his Church would be built. Jesus demonstrated their moment of reconciliation by re-commissioning Peter, by instructing him to care for and to feed his lambs and his sheep.
We struggle with forgiveness and reconciliation. Just think of that moment in the Lord’s Prayer: forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. We view forgiveness as something that has to be ‘earned’, rather than as a demonstration of Godly love, of living out our faith by sharing in the Christ-like forgiveness we see in today’s reading. Surely, this is not the way Jesus wants us to travel. Jesus wants us to set aside all that is negative and to move forward in hope and joy.
Jesus was denied and yet he forgave. Jesus asked for Peter’s declaration of love in order that Peter might be cleansed of the negative aftermath of that unfortunate moment in the gospel narrative. Jesus reassured Peter that he was still loved and trusted with something very precious: the future ministry of sharing the Good News with all.
Let us pray that we might not be bogged down with feelings of hurt and resentment. And, let us pray that we may recognize and respond to God’s love by sharing the Good News entrusted to Peter after that most human of moments some two thousand years ago.
Prayers of intercession
In the power of the Spirit and in union with Christ, let us pray to the Father.
Grant that your Church may ever respond with joyful eagerness to the vision of her risen Lord. Empower her ministers to faithfully feed your sheep, and bless all Christian people with grace to follow Christ to the end of the way.
We pray for the world where so many are as sheep that are not fed, some lacking food for the body and others food for the soul. Grant that all people may come to know the Lord who is calling them to his side.
As we give thanks for the mercy that fulfils our daily needs, we pray that we shall remember the needs of others and be generous in giving aid. Help us to love our Lord with all our hearts and to live out our lives in fellowship with him.
We pray for all who are disappointed after much striving that has seemed to end in failure. Give them new hope and purpose in their lives. Be merciful to those who have lost the love they once knew, and bring them back into the way from which they have strayed.
Receive the souls of the departed who have followed Christ and been with him at the end. Gather them into the fold of the redeemed, into the company of the heavenly feast.
We pray in the name of Christ who calls us to himself as his children.
Prayer for the week
forgive what we have been;
sanctify what we are;
and order what we shall be.
What we do not know, teach us;
what we do not have, give us;
what we are not, make us;
for Jesus Christ’s sake.
The Lord’s Prayer
Let us pray with confidence as our Saviour has taught us
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever. Amen.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.
Put thou thy trust in God,
in duty’s path go on;
walk in his strength with faith and hope,
so shall thy work be done.
Commit thy ways to him,
thy works into his hands,
and rest on his unchanging word,
who heaven and earth commands.
Paul Gerhardt (1607–1676)
translated by John Wesley (1703–1791) and others