Today's gospel is a lesson about the word "love." In contemporary culture this word is tossed around like an ingredient in the salad of life. Jesus' conversation with Peter is the model we need to consider. In the gospel scene Jesus is asking Peter for genuine, self-giving love, the kind of love that Jesus would be giving to all of us from the Calvary tree. It is the love that is shared between marriage partners or life-long friends. Jesus is asking Peter for heart-felt, life-giving love (commitment?) but Peter's response to the question "Do you love me, Peter?" is more like "Yes, I am your friend." Jesus, knowing Peter was not "getting it," asks a second time. The apostle's response, with a little frustration, is "Yes, you are my friend." Still did not understand! Jesus does not give up. He asks a third time but most likely his question was "Peter are you my friend?" We hear Peter respond the same way again, "Yes, you know I am your friend. Then Jesus, knowing that Peter needs emotional and spiritual growth, accepts Peter as he is. He knows that Peter will come to know what rue love is with the test of time.
Jesus is above any hurt or disappointment. He entrusts to Peter the care of the flock: "Feed my sheep." It is the same message the Jesus gives to each of us regardless of the number of times we have had to come back to Jesus because we have sinned. Jesus never turns away from us, from any sinner. The heart that was pierced out of love will never turn away from his flock nor fail anyone who has not responded to God's inviting love. That same heart brings forgiveness and a renewed invitation to "follow me."