“Feed my sheep” is what Jesus asks of Peter not once but thrice, and ever since then “feeding” has been an essential dimension of pastoral and apostolic service. What should motivate such feeding? We may feed from a surplus, or as a duty and obligation, or because feeding is such an obviously efficacious work of mercy. Jesus asks us to feed on and out of love.

At the end of the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius offers us the Contemplation to Attain Divine Love with two preliminary considerations: 1) that love shows itself in deeds more than words and 2) that love consists in a mutual sharing of goods. Feed my sheep, then, becomes an expression of love. Feed my sheep, then again, becomes a mutual sharing—a communication, even a communion—of love.

If the purpose of the Spiritual Exercises—or any code of Christian living for that matter—is to conform ourselves to Christ, then this dynamic of feeding assumes even more import. Jesus’ first words to Peter in the Gospel of John were “Come and you will see.” His final words to Peter in this same Gospel and in the aftermath of this brief tutorial on feeding are “You follow me.” Which is to say “Be like me; love like me.”

Fr. Charles Rodrigues, S.J., Associate Novice Director at the Jesuit Novitiate of St. Alberto Hurtado, St. Paul, MN. For more information on Jesuit vocations, click here.