By now we are all very familiar with the image of Pope Francis smiling and waving to the multitudes of people who come to see him. Perhaps you have noticed as well the distinctive pectoral cross that he wears. Sculpted upon this cross that Pope Francis wears is an image of Jesus as “the good shepherd.” This, of course, is taken from the gospel of John, as is our gospel reading today. It is thought provoking to ponder why Pope Francis has chosen this image for his pectoral cross.
We may remember distinctly Pope Francis’ first interview with Antonio Spadaro S.J. when Fr. Spadaro asked, “Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?” Pope Francis replied, “I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.” Peter too was a sinner. His heart was heavy because of his denial of Jesus. Such is the context of today’s gospel reading. Jesus has called the heavy-hearted Peter to shore to offer forgiveness and to validate Peter’s mission. Interestingly, Jesus again uses the imagery of the shepherd and the sheep. Jesus, the good shepherd, has come to find and forgive his struggling sheep Peter. Jesus then shares his mission with Peter, “feed my sheep.”
The message is powerful: Don’t let your sins and failings keep you from doing God’s work! Don’t let your struggles keep you from following Jesus! Peter sinned. Pope Francis admits to being a sinner. Yet both trust in the continued loving and merciful guidance of Jesus, their “good shepherd.” Moreover, both nourish the faith of others, despite their faults and failings. That’s an important reminder to us all.
What good work is God calling us to today, in spite of our sins and failings?
send your Spirit to help me nourish the faith of others,
as you so lovingly nourish me.
I ask this through Christ our Lord.
Daily Eucharistic Reflection – Center for Eucharistic Evangelizing (eucharisticevangelizing.com)