Scripture Readings: Acts 5:27-32, 40-41; Revelation 5:11-14; John 21:1-21

In this Sunday’s Gospel passage, Simon Peter tells several of the other apostles, “I am going fishing.” Peter and at least six other apostles had returned to their home district of Galilee, taking up again, at least part time, their work as fishermen, but also no doubt to ponder all that had taken place in recent days in and around the holy city of Jerusalem.

The apostles were perhaps not completely sure what to do after the death of their Master, Jesus. A return to what a number of them knew best, fishing, should not be seen as giving up on following Jesus, but more likely part of their contemplating the next phase of their call. I hope my guess in this matter is as good as anyone’s, for we simply don’t know the answer.

Presumably growth in confidence regarding what to do next accompanied the apostles’ reflections. The apostles must have hoped to meet the Lord again in their daily lives, as they had first encountered him, in Galilee, the place where they first were called by Jesus.

The setting of the third appearance of Jesus after his resurrection was at the Lake of Tiberius in Galilee (sometimes called the Sea of Galilee), a familiar place to the fishermen apostles. We are told that they caught nothing that night. Jesus appeared on the shore just after daybreak, but the apostles present did not recognize Jesus.

Their Lord first tells them to cast their nets again and they haul in a huge quantity of fish. At that moment John, the beloved disciple, recognizes that it is the Lord on the shore and then Peter, on hearing the good news, leaps into the water, presumably in hopes of getting to shore as quickly as possible to see the risen Lord.

Because the resurrection narratives are mysterious, such as Jesus able to pass through closed doors, some say the disciples only saw a vision of Jesus, and not the Lord truly alive once again. In fact Jesus went out of his way to give proof to his followers of his having risen, that he was not just a spirit or a ghost, nor the mere physical resuscitation of a dead corpse, but in fact their Lord in his risen and glorified state.

After the miraculous catch of fish, Jesus prepared a breakfast and ate with his apostles, something no ghost would do! Now Peter is confident of who is in his midst. This is a sharp contrast to Peter’s previous denial of his Master when Jesus was arrested before his passion and death.

Jesus questions Peter at the Lake of Tiberius three times about love and fidelity. It must have been painful for Peter to be tested thus, an echo of the three times Peter had publicly denied the Lord. Now purified and matured by the whole ordeal, Peter states he is ready and willing to serve his Master unto death, which in fact he does.

In the process of making Peter the shepherd of the flock, Jesus desired that Peter should follow in the footsteps of the Master, laying down his life for the sheep, as a good shepherd will do. In time Peter will also stretch out his arms for a death like the Lord’s. Tradition tells us that it was also by crucifixion, thereby glorifying God through Peter’s death as the shepherd of the Crucified Lord.

Christ’s own death and resurrection from the dead, though, is assurance to Saint Peter that the sacrifice of his life and death is not in vain, but sealed in the blood of Christ, who has the power to bring eternal life to all who are willing to take up their cross each day and follow their Lord.

We can say as well that Peter was challenged to prefer nothing whatever to Christ, who in fact preferred nothing whatever to Peter, representing the whole human race, loved without measure by God.

The Lord calls to each of us, even in our weakness and sin to love our God above all else. We may ask if we willingly run to the Lord like Peter did, even when faced with setbacks, disappointments and trials. We need to keep in mind that the Lord is always ready to renew us in faith and give us fresh hope in all the challenges of life.

Do I recognize that I am being asked to open my heart and mind to receive God’s word, to act upon it, and to be Christ’s follower for the rest of my life? Are we all ready and willing to do so? Nothing but our own free will can keep us from God’s love for us and our loving God in return.

The great gift being offered to us is of infinite value. God loved us first and our love for God is but a response to infinite mercy and grace. So we might ask in this Paschaltide: do I allow God’s love to change my heart? Do I want everything that is unloving, unkind, ungrateful, unholy and not of God’s will, to be removed from my life? It won’t happen in a day, of course, but we must slowly, each day, work in cooperation with God toward the transformed of our existence, to belonging completely to God without reserve or regret.

Let us pray that God will work that kind of wonder in our lives today and every day. May the Eucharist we celebrate and receive, Christ’s Living Word and his own Body and Blood under the form of bread and wine, be essential spiritual nourishment for our journey to God.

Prior Christian Leisy, OSB
Monastery of Christ in the Desert
Abiquiu, New Mexico