The conversation between Jesus and Peter in John 21:15-19 (next Sunday’s Gospel) is, I think, like the call we all receive to follow Jesus. When Jesus calls the first time, we may be confused, puzzled, amazed, questioning, or unbelieving. But something in the depths of our being is touched, and it won’t go away.
Each time the call is repeated – similar to the question to Peter, “Do you love me?’ – we again listen and are asked to follow. It is our choice. If we answer “yes,” the question “Do you love me?” comes again and again, touching us more deeply and intensely. We follow by caring and tending the “sheep” in the pastures of our lives.
As we continue on the way, at some point we hear Jesus say “when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” It may happen subtly or with a jolt of insight. At that point in our lives, we know some of the cost, the surrender involved. But Jesus says again: “Follow me. Are you still willing to follow me?”
The unfolding of our call is a life-long journey of listening and responding day after day, in good times and bad, in joy and sorrow, in major decisions and small ones. If we continue to say “Yes, Lord, you know I love you,” our hearts are filled with resurrection joy and peace.