Peter gets a little frustrated with Jesus because he repeats His question three times. However, when we consider that Peter denied Jesus three times a few weeks before this event, perhaps it is not so surprising! Peter could hardly have forgotten this somewhat difficult time. Why, then, does Jesus repeat Himself?
I think that it is significant that the reply of Jesus to Peter’s response is slightly different each time. Not only does it seem that Jesus is satisfying Himself that Peter is truly committed to Him, He is also reinforcing that the commission that He is giving to Him is a universal one. Jesus tells Peter this in three different ways, commissioning him to feed and care for His sheep and lambs. There can be no doubt at the end of the exchange that Peter is committed to loving Jesus and being obedient to Him, and also that Jesus is entrusting to Peter’s care the mission that was His and is now being given to the Church to continue.
Peter’s authority to carry out this commission is seen to come directly from Jesus. There are other texts in the Gospels that support this idea as well. It is important for us to remember that Jesus did not leave the Church without a visible sign of her unity and leadership in the person of Peter and his successors. Peter clearly stands alone as the one appointed by Jesus for this task. In the Gospels it is Peter who is usually the spokesman for the apostles and it is to Him that Jesus addresses Himself more often than not when speaking to the apostles.
It seems to me, therefore, that it is relatively obvious that peter plays a special role among the apostles that the Church, in her wisdom and guided by the Holy Spirit, has institutionalised in the person of the pope.
How often do I thank God for the gift of the pope? Do I realise the important role that he plays in reminding the Church of her mission and the need for unity and holiness? How can I be more attentive to his thoughts and words as guides the Church Towards the completion of its mission?
Father in Heaven, you and Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to be with the Church forever and to guide it in your ways of love. By your grace you ensure that the Church does not err in its teaching on faith and morals. Thank you for this.