REFLECTION FOR THE 3RD SUNDAY OF EASTER
Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.
The greatest need ever is love because it is the bedrock of every good thing`. Did you know that it is easier to say, “I love you” than to answer the question, “do you love me?” The question seems to point to some probing signs of uncertainty and doubt from the person asking the question. It would be sad to discover that you are not loved as much as you love or would like to be loved.
In the Gospel of today (John 21:1-19), we see Simon Peter struggling at three successive intervals to answer the question, “do you love me?”. The setting was by the sea of Tiberias (also known as the sea of Galilee); the same spot Jesus called Peter, Andrew, James, and John to leave their fishing trade and become fishers of men (Matthew 4:18-22).
Earlier, Simon had announced that he was going fishing and some other disciples offered to tag along with him. Unfortunately, they spent the entire night fishing but catching nothing for reasons beyond their comprehension.
When it was morning, the frustrated and hungry disciples were getting ready to leave when Jesus showed up and addressed them in this instructive way: “Children, have you caught anything to eat?”
By calling them children, the risen Lord was addressing their spiritual immaturity and insufficient knowledge about his salvific mission, which made them go back to the profession of catching fish instead of catching men. Furthermore, it can only be childish to labor without the Lord. “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9).
The Hunger for Love
Back to the question, the disciples confessed that they could not catch anything to eat after laboring the entire night. Here, we understand that they went fishing because they were hungry. However, the hunger was beyond the appetite for fish; they were deficient in the love connection with the Lord. Recall that Jesus said, “cut off from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
God is love (1 John 4:8). So, the absence of our risen Lord in their midst was a typical indication that they lost the warmth of his love when they abandoned him and fled (Mark 14:50). The appearance of Jesus to the disciples by the sea of Tiberias indicated the resurrection of love for the apostles, and we shall see how this plays out.
There is a consistent pattern of divine intervention in our lives. God comes at the expiration of our human efforts. Jesus showed up at the time when the disciples had expended the entire night and caught nothing. Their night was sorrowful, but the morning made a difference (Psalm 30:5).
When our risen Lord showed up, he asked them to cast their net at the right side, and instantly there was a great catch of fish. Notice that it was the same sea where they toiled the entire night and caught nothing. There is always a right and a wrong side in life. We constantly need the Lord to take us to the right side. David says, “He leads me on the right path” (Psalm 23:3).
The disciples came to the shore only to discover that the risen Lord had prepared a breakfast of fish on a charcoal fire and bread. How did he do that? Indeed, the risen Lord comes with surprises as he will do for you today if you believe. So, he comes to fulfill the promise of providing needs (Phil. 4:19).
“Do you love me more than these?”
After the breakfast, the risen Lord turns to address Peter personally, which would be the first time after the resurrection. The last personal encounter occurred when Peter denied Him three times before the rooster crowed.
One could only imagine what was going in Simon Peter’s mind when the Lord called him aside. He could have been expecting a rebuke for his awful denial. But to his surprise, our Lord asked him, “Simon, son of John do you love me more than these?” One could be curious about what Jesus was calling “these.”
“These” could be anything that challenges our connection to the Lord. It could be your life, material wealth, job, or even family and friends. Obviously, for Simon, it was his life that he tried to save when Jesus was arrested, and the old trade of catching fish he revisited.
The three times Peter responded to the question could have allowed him to cancel out his threefold denial of the Lord by the charcoal fire in Gabbatha (Matt. 26:33). Love gives multiple chances to remedy past mistakes; love forgives all things (1 Cor. 13:7).
After Peter’s reconnection to the Lord in the foreground of love, he received the mandate to feed the Lord’s lamb and tend his sheep. Lamb refers to those who would come to know about Jesus through the words and works of the apostles, while sheep refers to those who already had contact with the Lord. In both cases, there would be a need for care.
Moving Forward: “Follow Me”:
After the dialogue with Peter, the Risen Lord said, “follow me.” Notice that it was the same thing he told Simon and others when he first called them to become fishers of men (Mark 1:17). Jesus was like renewing their vocation with the resurrection power.
The risen Lord is extending the same invitation to us today to follow him. We need to reactivate our discipleship and renew our commitment to following the Lord. We may have fallen short of our calling by some mistakes, but the good news is that the love of the risen Lord is powerful enough to remove the multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).
Do you love Jesus more than these? If you do, then follow Him!