Jesus entrusted his sheep to Peter, the most sinful of the remaining eleven apostles, and invited him to shepherd the People of God with humility and love, despite his mistakes and sins.
Pope Francis commented on the Gospel of the day (Jn 21:15-19), in which the Risen Jesus converses with Peter on the lake shore where he had first been called. The Pope said it was a calm, serene dialogue between friends and took place in the atmosphere of the Resurrection. In that event, Jesus entrusts his sheep to Peter, asking him three times if he loved him.
“Jesus,” the Pope said, “chose the most sinful from among the apostles. The others escaped but Peter denied him: ‘I don’t know him.’ And Jesus asked him, ‘Do you love me more than these?’ Jesus chose the worst sinner.”
Shepherd the People of God with humility, despite mistakes
The Holy Father said Jesus’ choice to choose the most sinful of the remaining eleven apostles to shepherd the People of God with love “makes us think”.
“Do not shepherd with your head held high,” he said, “like a conqueror. No, shepherd with humility, with love, as Jesus did. This is the mission which Jesus gives to Peter. Yes, with sins and mistakes. In affirmation of this, right after this dialogue Peter slips up, makes a mistake, and is tempted by curiosity to say to the Lord, ‘But this other disciple, where will he go, what will he do?’ But with love, in the midst of his mistakes and sins… with love: ‘Because these sheep are not your sheep but mine,’ says the Lord. ‘Love. If you are my friend, you must be a friend to these.’”
Peter chooses to be crucified with his head down
Pope Francis then recalled how Peter denied Jesus before the High Priest’s servant and how Jesus looked at him in that moment, he who had just denied his Lord. But, he said, the apostle who is “courageous in denying is capable also of bitter tears”.
“After an entire life spent in service of the Lord,” the Pope said, “his life ended like his Lord’s: on the cross. But he does not boast: ‘I end as did my Lord!’ Rather he asks, ‘Please, put me on the cross with my head down, so that at the very least it is seen that I am not the Lord but a servant.’ This is what we can learn from this beautiful, serene, friendly, and modest dialogue: We hold our heads high for the dignity that God gives us, but we lower our head, knowing that we are sinners and that the only Lord is Jesus; we are servants.”