3rd Sunday of Easter ~ 1 May 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Acts 5:27-32; Responsorial: Psalm 30; II: Revelation 5: 11-14; Gospel: John 21: 1-19

“From the Boat” ~ William Hole, 1889

Christ is Risen! The Gospel accounts of the risen Lord Jesus continue as He appears to the Apostles. In retrospect, we usually focus on the actual events of the risen Jesus being seen by His disciples. And these manifestations of Christ are truly the heart and power of these accounts. But there is another aspect that is important. The disciples were being called, in spite of their uncertainties, fears, their struggling humanity to witness the risen Christ.

This very basic dimension of their knowing Christ would soon be affirmed by Jesus when He would proclaim:” You shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and the uttermost parts of the earth.” (Acts 1:8). This holy privilege and joy would grow to become the hallmark of the early church. The Greek word used in the New Testament frames this powerful verb. “Martureo’ “, to witness would soon be centered upon the witness of the holy martyrs from which that word is derived. But it would also grow to recognize all dimensions of the witness the disciples are called to share of Christ, crucified and risen from the dead. We too must realize we ARE witnesses. Of whom, of what the focus of our witness is a matter of honest reflection and renewal, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Witness of the Body, the Blood of Christ ~ The Witness of His Body, the People of God.

The issue of the witness for Christ is especially meaningful in our Gospel account for this Lord’s Day. It is the poignant story of Jesus appearing to His apostles at the Sea of Galilee. In their uncertainties and turmoil, they have returned to the security of what was familiar to them, fishing. They have spent the night on the Sea of Galilee but with no success. But Jesus awaits them on the shore and He has cooked breakfast for them. As they draw closer Jesus asks how the catch went, fully knowing their futile efforts. As they respond in their discouragement He instructs them to cast the net out over the side once more. The draft of fish is immense! And John, the Beloved recognizes that it is Jesus who beckons them. He tells Peter who in the love of a seemingly failed and wounded follower jumps into the water in his longing for Christ. They all come to shore. They are fed and an extraordinary dialogue occurs. Three times Jesus asks Peter if he loves him. He doesn’t ask if Peter knows what he did wrong. He doesn’t ask if Peter knows the commandments. He doesn’t ask if Peter is going to go to synagogue. He asks, simply, “Do you love me?” Peter, is very likely brought back to his threefold denial of his Lord by this threefold press of questions affirms to Jesus and is told by Christ to feed, and tend His sheep, His lambs.

The three other Gospels do not share this encounter. It is only in the Gospel, the WITNESS of John. This apostle was very likely very close to Jesus, who he loved on the beach that morning. And his love for, and respect for Peter must have moved John profoundly. The last of the Gospels to be written many years after the first three is a powerful affirmation of the relationship between Jesus and Peter. But it is also a clear lesson of the resurrection love of Christ for each of us.

The Galilee encounter of Jesus, with Peter, John, and the others can bring us to realize the vital graces God will bring as we experience the Fish, the Forgiveness, and the call to Follow as Peter and the others did.

Jesus with the Apostles at Galilee

The Risen Christ knew well the struggling human condition of His disciples. He knows our fatigues, our discouragements, and uncertainties. And He seeks us to bring us to rest and eat, to be nurtured in body, soul, and spirit. This is a clear illustration of the Eucharistic meal and the holy sustenance it brings. But it is also an important message that in the struggle it is essential to eat and to eat as healthy as possible. The sound nourishment of these temples of the Holy Spirit is often the most neglected aspect of care when a soul is mourning, struggling, or simply over-worked. Jesus knew His friends were weary and discouraged. So He fed them. A very simple prayer reflection is to picture Jesus with you as you prepare a meal or eat the nourishment He brings from the land. Jesus knows our hunger and He will fill us with His peace, love, and hope!

Christ on the shore of Galilee knew the need for His disciples to eat. But He also knew well they carried heavy burdens, especially Peter. The guilt and remorse Peter had in his life were clouding his ability to clearly see the joy of the Risen Christ. So Jesus responded in love and mercy. With Peter fed and warmed by the fire He drew Peter closer and asked him for the first time… “Do you love me? God in His holy mercy and love knows when we are infected with the wounds and effects of sin and this world. And in that same mercy and love, He will call us on it, just as He confronted Peter. The dialogue witnessed by John had an eternal focus. Forgiveness. Peter had undoubtedly known hours of remorse and sorrow for his failure of the Christ. And God had heard the cries of his wounded heart. Christ went to Galilee. He fixed that simple holy breakfast to bring to Peter (and the others) the assurance of forgiveness. The seeds of peace and hope the Words of Jesus planted in the heart of the apostles that morning would grow. It would bring them, in holy, if uncertain hope, to Jerusalem where the promise and power of the Holy Spirit would drench them. They were being Fed and Forgiven that they could Follow the risen Christ.

It was no doubt a poignant and powerful moment as Jesus concluded His conversation with Peter. The nourishment of the loving meal and the catharsis of forgiveness would be concluded with two words. But it would be the same two words that Jesus spoke when their walk with Jesus had begun. It was at the seashore of Galilee that Christ had called them away from their nets and said…Follow Me! Peter, John, and the others must have flashed back overall they had witnessed. They must have realized Jesus wasn’t done with them. He still loved them He still wanted them to Follow. They were realizing with resurrection hope and joy, Jesus loved them more than they had ever realized!