Reflection for Sunday – May 1, 2022
Readings: Acts 5: 27-32, 40b-41; Revelations 5: 11-14; John 21: 1-19
Preacher: Sr. Barbara Moore
The appearances of the Risen Lord continue, and today it is a very interesting one with a deep and profound message. John tells us it was the third time he “was revealed to his disciples.”
Today, apparently Peter and his friends are returning to their professions or maybe needed food, or just needed to get away after the previous heart-breaking events. Peter says, “I am going fishing” and he is joined by several others. John indicates that Jesus had already shown himself to Mary Magdalene, the apostles with and without Thomas, and now as the text says, “He revealed himself in this way…” He was at a distance, cooking on shore and at first, he was unrecognizable; perhaps not expected amidst the ordinary events of the apostles’ lives. Ordinary things like we all face; our work, our struggles, our hungers and sorrows. These ordinary things were all present as the disciples labored to catch fish. Then a simple direct question changed everything.
“Children, have you caught anything to eat? No! Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.” Surprisingly the skilled fishermen, even after failure took a chance, responded and the catch almost overwhelmed them. Another Jesus appearance was now recognized and Peter, “jumped into the sea” to reach him on the shore.
Scholars debate what Jesus’ appearances were really like because he appears and disappears, comes through closed doors and eats with folks. But no one denies that something happened and, in some way, he was present, recognized and even in today’s Gospel, engages Peter in a profound dialogue.
I find this Gospel very important. I say that because many of us do not recognize the divine presence within and among us. A presence in the most ordinary ways: our work, our family life, and our community life. And sometimes that presence invites us to make a change, to take a chance, to “cast our nets over the right side of the boat” of our lives. To respond to a need when we believed we could not. To forgive another when we think we should not. To take a different direction when we are filled with fear. To speak up for peace and justice when we do not know the response we will receive. “Casting our nets” in a different direction can be a risk. And many of us know that reality to be true.
I can understand why the disciples, as they reached shore, found it difficult to ask who this person was, but did respond to Jesus’ invitation, “Come, have breakfast.” A meal that reminds us of the Last Supper and the meal on the way to Emmaus. Did those events come into their minds or, the feeding of so many on the hillside?
It is important to understand that John’s Gospel was written some 60 years after the resurrection. It was written to a believing community. The role of Peter was taking shape within the community. The three questions and images Jesus raises as well as the call to Peter to care for Jesus’ lambs and sheep remind us of Jesus’ description of himself as the Good Shepherd. They also remind us of what happened at another charcoal fire when Peter denied him three times.
Reconciliation and affirmation are evident in this text. Peter was affirmed in his growing role of leadership and forgiven his denials.
Reconciliation and affirmation of one’s role and gifts are so central to the Christian message. And even after all the sorrow, mistakes and denials, Jesus shows these qualities. I wonder why he asked Peter three times, “Do you love me?” Was it a reminder of his denials? The first time he asks if Peter “loves him more than these?” Is he placing on him these burdens of taking care of the “lambs and sheep” as well as deep love to indicate that Peter will be called into leadership that will be difficult? “Someone will lead you where you do not want to go.” By the time John is writing his Gospel Peter has been led to his death.
I believe that this Easter Sunday the risen Lord is making appearances in our world. He is present as people come to the help of the Ukraine in so many courageous ways. Jesus is present through the ways many people struggle to make the earth safer for his beloved “lambs and sheep.” The risen Lord is present when his followers come to a realization that all of God’s children, no matter their race, creed or culture are “chosen in God’s eyes.” May these be the values that lead us to “throw the nets of our lives to the other side of the boat” in service and love.