When they had finished breakfast, 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.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
You’re not alone if you’re tired of this reading! Peter, who denied Christ three times, is now affirming his love for his friend three times. That assurance of love confirms Peter’s responsibility to lead the church. But we can’t ignore what follows. Jesus prophesies that Peter will be martyred! Then he immediately says, “Follow me.” What a strange call story. It’s a far cry from the Peter’s call story at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. There was no prophecy of death before Peter jumped out of the boat and chose to become a disciple. But this is a call to Peter to continue his apostolic ministry, knowing that he will literally die for the cause of the Gospel. His motivation to continue? A deep love for Jesus.
Peter is responding to the Call of the King, a response that means he is choosing to share in the triumphs and hardships that Christ endured, until death. For Peter there is something so captivating about Jesus and his mission that he responds so affirmatively. Our baptism and confirmation is a response to Christ’s call, but each day the Lord calls us to recommit to this mission, and like Peter we must do it from a place of love.
Eternal Lord and King of all creation, humbly I come before you. Knowing the support of Mary, your mother, and all your saints, I am moved by your grace to offer myself to you and to your work. I deeply desire to be with you in accepting all wrongs and rejections and all poverty, both actual and spiritual—and deliberately choose this, if it is for your greater service and praise. If you, my Lord and King, would so call and choose me, then take and receive me into such a way of life.
—The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, #98: David Fleming, S.J. translation