How would you feel if you happen to face someone you hurt so badly in the past? Would you shield your face or face your shame? Peter falls into this situation today in the Gospel (John 21:1-19) when the Lord visited them one early morning by the sea of Tiberias, and he had to answer the question about his exclusive love for the Lord.
It might be easy to blame Peter for his despicable denial of having any knowledge about his Lord and Master at the most critical time of his life. The Bible tells us that when the cock crowed, Peter realized that he screwed up three times and wept bitterly (Luke 22:62). It is important to note here too that he could not go back to say sorry before our Lord was taken away for crucifixion; so, his narrative with the Lord had a hurtful ending.
When we hear that the disciples were afraid and locked themselves up in the Upper Room, it may not only be for fear of the Jews as the Gospels tell us (John 20:19) but also for the shame of deserting their Lord and Master (Mark 14:50).
The Gospel today is filled with symbolic locations, words, and actions; we shall explore these while focusing on the theme of our reflection which is the resurrection of love.
“I am Going Fishing”
The Gospel begins with Simon Peter declaring his desire to go fishing. We could recall that fishing was the former carer of Peter and the two sons of Zebedee; James and John before their call to become fishers of men by following our Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 4:19).
Going to fishing means going back to the former way of life. It shows hopelessness, despair, and disconnection from their vocation. The resurrected Lord seems to be “elusive”; appearing and disappearing and one could feel the pressure on them to back off from their vocation.
“But that Night they Caught Nothing.”
When we follow our route instead of the Lord’s we miss the mark. When we depend on our strength instead of depending on the Lord, we labor in vain (Psalm 127:1-2). For the entire night, they caught nothing because they were in the wrong place doing the wrong thing and the Lord was not with them.
Jesus Appears on the Shore
God knows every bit of our struggles, and He often comes at the points of need. Jesus comes at the end of their human struggle to grant them divine assistance. Appearing, he asked, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?”. Our Lord rightly calls them children because their action showed it.
Knowing the futility of their previous night, our Lord instructs them to cast the net over the right side of the boat, and they made a very big catch. It was at this point that they realized that they have been on the wrong the whole of the night and catching nothing.
Breakfast with the Lord
The apostles in this narrative get to the shore to discover that the Lord had breakfast ready for them; fish on a charcoal fire and bread. Note here that they had nothing to eat before, but now something is waiting for them.
Here we remember the multiplication of five loaves of bread and two fish when the people had nothing to eat in the desert place (John 6:1-14). St. Paul was right when he says that the Lord will supply all our needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:19).
“Do you Love Me more than these?”
After breakfast, our Lord takes Peter aside to ask him the question above. You can imagine the eye-to-eye contact between our Lord and Peter as he presents the three-time question while Peter answers with some disquiet in him as he possibly recalls the three times, he denied the Lord by the charcoal fire the night before the crucifixion.
Love is not just what we profess; people do so daily; love is rather what we practice; it is a verb, not just a noun. We notice that each time Peter says I love you Lord he tells him what to do something, feed my lambs, tend my sheep, and feed my sheep. We understand here that our Lord not only forgives Peter but also commissions him for the task ahead. Notice here that our Lord does not revisit any of the past events he rather focuses on the future.
Moving Forward: Let Love Arise!
The high point of today’s encounter with the resurrected Lord is the narrative of love. Love is at the heart of our relationship with God, and without love, there would be no God just as love cannot exist without God because God is love (1 John 4:8).
Our Lord’s visit to the group early in the morning after their fruitless search for fish is a deep expression of God’s love for us amid our confusion and fruitless search for meaning. Our Lord comes with the message of love and reconciliation with those who abandoned him during his suffering, and he beautifully does that with the presentation of a hot breakfast after the cold night.
Do you reach out with love to those who denied and abandoned you at the most critical moment in your life? The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ invites us to allow love to rise and reign in our lives and relationships. Love is not an option that you can take or leave; it is a commandment (John 13:34-35).
As we continue to celebrate the joy of the resurrection, it is important for us to personalize our Lord’s question to Peter, “do I love him more than these (my job, wealth, relationships, family, education, and my life)? Your answer would be as good as what your life would become.
Have a blissful Sunday and a lovely week ahead.