18 April 2010
THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER
The readings for today's mass are found here.
Today's reading from the Gospel of Saint John finds most of the apostles back in Galilee, as they have returned to their home and to what is natural and comfortable for them. In the time since the resurrection, the apostles have been spiritually wandering. They have experienced the depth of Christ's passion and death, and the heights of His resurrection, but He is no longer with them every day. So, it is natural that they would return to their homes and, indeed, return to what they previously did. At Peter's suggestion, the apostles in today's Gospel passage go fishing.
They were fisherman before Jesus' call, so we find it no surprise that they have returned to fishing. But, they catch nothing after fishing all night. The sense of futility in doing what comes natural to them--to living a life as they lived it prior to Christ's call--is evident in Saint John's account. Their lives are now futile without Christ.
However, at dawn Christ is standing on the shore, although they do not recognize Him, and he tells them to cast their nets over the right side of the boat to catch fish. They do so, and we hear: "So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish." At this moment, the apostle John recognizes the Lord and tells Simon Peter that it is Him. Impatient to return to shore, Peter leaps into the water and swims to greet Jesus on the shore.
In this sequence of fishing with futility and then catching a great abundance following the words of Christ, we see the futility of life driven out of the lives of the apostles by Christ's loving interjection. We see that when we the faithful want to do in our lives what is comfortable, but do it without Christ, we live in futility. When we allow the love of Christ to infuse us and act in our lives, however, that futility falls away for an abundance of blessing.
In fact, we hear that the apostles drug the net, straining with fish, to the shore where the counted 153 large fish. There, on the shore they ate breakfast with the Lord, sharing bread and fish.
Christ loved the apostles as He loves us. He is a real presence in our lives, if we but open ourselves to Christ, so that we may live lives not filled with futility, but filled with the blessing and grace offered by God.
And, too, today's Gospel account provides a view into the redemption that Christ offers to each of us. Prior to Christ' crucifixion, Peter had claimed to love the Lord more than the others, saying he would lay down his life for Jesus (Jn 13, 37 NAB), but Jesus knew that his heart still suffered from weakness and, indeed, told Peter that he would deny Him three times (Jn 13, 18), which he did (Jn 18, 17-27).
Now, after the resurrection of Christ, He asks Peter three times if he loves Him. The significance of the three questions is not to test Peter's sincerity. No. The Lord now knows that Peter's heart is ready to take on the burden that he will bear by loving Christ devotedly, so He asks Peter three times if he loves Him so that Peter can fully reconcile his three denials of Christ. And in response to each of Peter's three affirmations of love for our Lord, Christ gives Peter the duties of the universal pastor of the Church: "Feed my lambs." "Tend my sheep." "Feed my sheep." That is, Christ calls Peter to provide for the innocent and look after the needs of all believers, feeding them with the Truth of the Gospel and the Eucharist, in obeyance of Christ's final command to Peter: "Follow me."
Praise the Lord for the gift of today's call to follow Him. He offers us all the redemption of His love each time we fail. Our key in following Him in faith is to continue to try. Peter tried and failed to follow the Lord, then Christ redeemed Peter's efforts and he was given the pastoral responsibility for the entirety of us believers. Like Peter, we today will try and fail, but relying humbly on our Lord's love, each of us can live out the fullness of the life he has called us to through His grace which He offers freely.