After several days had passed, King Agrippa and Bernice arrived at Caesarea to welcome Festus. Since they were staying there several days, Festus laid Paul's case before the king, saying, "There is a man here who was left in prison by Felix. When I was in Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews informed me about him and asked for a sentence against him. I told them that it was not the custom of the Romans to hand over anyone before the accused had met the accusers face to face and had been given an opportunity to make a defense against the charge. So when they met here, I lost no time, but on the next day took my seat on the tribunal and ordered the man to be brought. When the accusers stood up, they did not charge him with any of the crimes that I was expecting. Instead they had certain points of disagreement with him about their own religion and about a certain Jesus, who had died, but whom Paul asserted to be alive. Since I was at a loss how to investigate these questions, I asked whether he wished to go to Jerusalem and be tried there on these charges. But when Paul had appealed to be kept in custody for the decision of his Imperial Majesty, I ordered him to be held until I could send him to the emperor." Agrippa said to Festus, I would like to hear the man myself." "Tomorrow," he said, "you will hear him."
My soul, give thanks to the Lord,
all my being, bless his holy name.
My soul give thanks to the Lord
and never forget all his blessings. (R./)
For as the heavens are high above the earth
so strong is his love for those who fear him.
As far as the east is from the west
so far does he remove our sins. (R./)
The Lord has set his sway in heaven
and his kingdom is ruling over all.
Give thanks to the Lord, all his angels,
mighty in power, fulfilling his word. (R./)
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."
In moments of fear and crisis we can easily fall short of our best. This happened even to Peter, our church’s first apostle and pastor. On the night when Jesus was arrested, Peter rashly denied Jesus three times in the courtyard of the High Priest. Months later, when Peter was back earning his living as a fisherman, the risen Jesus appeared to him by the lakeshore and three times asked him the question, “Do you love me?” Peter was no longer the impulsive, boastful man he once had been, for after his denial during the passion he tasted a flood of remorse. He had returned to the work he knew best, sobered by failure, to get on with his life – now with more awareness of his limits. Knowing his own weakness he had learned compassion for others, and became the right man to lead the followers of Christ.
Three times Peter had denied having anything to do with Jesus. But the Lord gave him the chance to make amends by asking him three times, “Do you love me?” The question was not, “How could you have let me down?” but “Do you love me?” It pointed to the present, not the past . The past was then; it is now that counts. When Peter humbly answered, “Lord, you know I love you,” he is called to be a pastor: “Feed my sheep.”
This vocation led Peter to a wider field of mission, bringing the message of Jesus first to Joppa (now Jaffa) and then Antioch and later to Rome itself. Generosity and openness to the Holy Spirit became the hallmarks of his ministry. As such, he is the rock of the Church and patron of all who share his apostolic ministry to spread the love of God.
Even though Peter spoke with authority, he treated others with patience and respect, as reflected in his epistle when he urges his fellow church elders to “feed the flock of God that is in your charge” and “Do not lord it over those in your charge, but be examples to the flock” (1 Pt 5:1-4). He is able to love and be loved, able to value the ideas and talents of others, understanding human weakness and ready to follow Jesus at all costs.
This is the authentic Petrine ministry that our Church reveres and longs for. Jesus singled him out and sent him to “Feed my sheep.” Peter the fisherman was to be the iconic chief pastor of the Church.
Just say it one more time… The risen Lord asks us the same question he asked Peter, “Do you love me?” It is not an accusation but an outreach of friendship no matter how we may have let him down. As we come to Holy Communion that question is addressed to us again. It is our privelege to reply as Peter did and renew our personal loyalty to the Lord.