“So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ He said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ He said to him again a second time, ‘Simon, (son) of Jonah, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ He said to him, “Tend my sheep.’ He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, (son) of Jonah, do you love me?’ Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you…’” (Jn 21: 15-17)
In this well-known passage, Christ restores Peter, who had recently thrice denied His Lord during His salvific passion. Christ offers Peter healing by thrice allowing the lapsed Apostle to affirm that he “loves” Him, and by thrice calling Peter to do the work that was his vocation, to minister to the Lord’s sheep and lambs, that is, to serve others.
There is much that can be said about this passage, but I’d like to reflect just on the following: Christ points to Peter’s calling, to minister to others in the Church, as part of his healing process. It is easy to read this passage slightly differently, by thinking that the Lord demands that Peter “prove” his love to Him through ministry. As if the Lord is saying, “Oh yeah? You love Me? Well, prove it to Me.” But the Lord does not need proof, knowing Peter’s heart, because, as Peter rightly notes, He “knows all things.” It isn’t the Lord Who needs “proof” of Peter’s love. It is Peter who needs restoration and healing, and a vital part of this, Christ says to the Apostle, will be Peter’s ministry to others, which is Peter’s calling. And the refreshing fact is, this vocation hasn’t changed nor erased itself because of Peter’s sin.
Today I remember that service to others is healing, first and foremost for me. When I help others, I help myself. This is why it is pointless to ponder whether or not I am “worthy” to do what I am called to do. And for me, just like for every other follower of Christ, that calling is – to be of service to others, in the way that I, personally, can.