In today’s gospel, Jesus asks Peter three times “Do you love me more than these?” and again, “Do you love me?”, and then again.
We know why Jesus asked three times, in order to forgive Peter’s denials. But what did Christ mean by “these”? Some might say the other apostles, some earthly things. I think Jesus was asking Peter “What are you willing to sacrifice for me?” and “Are you willing to give up “the world”?” One reason this passage points to Petrine Primacy is that, ever since, Popes have been sacrificing the world in order to lead Christ’s church. Benedict XVI gave up his teaching career, JPII gave up his acting career and his freedom, JPI gave up his life, Paul VI gave up his dignity. And so on. If we study the lives of the Popes, the Servants of the Servants of God, we can see real pastor-ship.
The Pope and all the bishops are referred to as pastors, and we know that in Biblical times, the sheep were more important than the shepherd. The shepherd would sacrifice himself to protect the sheep, and this is, by and large, what the popes have done, even to the point of being crucified or martyred in other ways rather than lead the faithful down a wrong path.