Authentic Pastoral Leadership

Today’s Gospel is a portion of the episode recorded by John where the resurrected Jesus meets his disciples at the shore of Galilee. I’ve written and spoken before about he colloquy between Jesus and Peter, where Jesus asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” Each time Peter answers, Jesus instructs: feed my lambs, tend my sheep.

Richard Gaillardetz says this about Jesus invitation to Peter to pastoral care:

The story exhibits the Christian shape of authentic pastoral leadership. We sometimes hear from our pastoral leaders the perfunctory language of humility (“and, me, your unworthy servant”). Yet in Peter, as portrayed in this reading, there is nothing false or artificial. Jesus called him to pastoral care out of the painful crucible of failure and forgiveness. Real pastoral leadership will never draw from petty privileges of prestige, power, and control. It is only because, at the very core of our being, we know ourselves to be forgiven that we can lead others to the audacious love of Christ.

It is easy to nod our heads when we read these words, critically concluding that not all those who lead our Church appear to manifest the type of humility of which Gaillardetz is speaking.

But his words are not only for those we give the label pastoral leaders. For all of us, our ability to be effective disciples, effective evangelizers, requires that we remember that we are called in our brokenness, in our weakness. Called, as Peter, out of the “crucible of failure and forgiveness.”