This week in our Creation Season, we move from planting to nurturing…just as nature moves in the cycle of life.
My wise mother-in-law Nancy says, “We come to love what we take care of.” She should know; she has taken care of others – children, elderly folks, animals – all her life. She is one of the most nurturing people I know.
But when I first heard this bit of wisdom, I thought it was turned around – reversed. Surely, we love first, and then take care of what (whom) we love, I thought. But upon reflection and observation, I’ve come to see that Nancy had it right.
We all live this reality. Parents don’t already love a baby who has just arrived; we take care of an infant and in the caring, our love takes root and grows. When we adopt a dog, we generally don’t know her personality well. But after caring for her, we come to love her, foibles and all. (Here I speak from experience.)
This even holds true with plants that we have nursed along through a drought, or a house we have lived in, painted, and repaired over the years. Caring leads to loving.
So in today’s Gospel, when Jesus (at the end of his earthly life) asks Peter three times to “tend and feed my sheep,” Jesus is showing Peter the path to loving his neighbors, by caring for and nurturing them. Peter hadn’t always shown his love and devotion very clearly or consistently. Jesus spoke from experience.
What have you cared for in your life – perhaps even involuntarily – that, eventually, you came to love? How have you helped to tend Jesus’ sheep? JBM