Friends, in today’s Gospel Jesus foretells the denial of Peter, which is fulfilled in the account of the Passion. Peter later denies Jesus three times before the cock crows and, remembering Jesus’ prediction, breaks down and weeps.
After the Resurrection, Peter and the other disciples returned to Galilee to work as fishermen again, and there spotted Jesus on the far shore. As Jesus draws Peter back into his circle of intimacy, we witness a beautiful act of spiritual direction. Three times the Lord asks Peter whether he loves him, and three times Peter affirms it: “Lord, you know that I love you.”
St. Augustine was the first to comment that the threefold statement of love was meant to counteract the threefold denial. Peter emerges as the archetype of the forgiven and commissioned church, for after each of his reaffirmations, Peter hears the command to tend the sheep. Once we are brought back into friendship with Jesus, we are called to love those whom he loves.