IT IS THE LORD
(A biblical refection on THE THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER [YEAR C] – 5 May 2019)
Gospel Reading: John 21:1-19
First Reading: Acts 5:27-32,40-41; Psalms: Psalm 30:2-6,11-13; Second Reading: Revelation 5:11-14
The Scripture Text
After this Jesus revealed Himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and He revealed Himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat; but that night they caught nothing.
Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it is, for the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his clothes, for he was stripped for work, and sprang into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.
When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish lying on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty three of them; and although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask Him, “Who are You?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after He was raised from the dead.
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Feed My lambs.” A second time He said to him. “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do You love me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know everything; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are ole, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go.” (This He said to show by hat death he was to glorify God.) And after this He said to him, “Follow me.” (John 21:1-19 RSV)
The scene has changed from the claustrophobia of the locked room in Jerusalem to the open air by the Lake of Galilee. Seven of the disciples, a full number, had gone back to the old occupation as if they still did not appreciate their new mission and the Spirit they had received. Acting on their own they caught nothing.
The evangelist notes, “It was light by now”, indicating the new day of re-created humanity. But the eyes of the disciples still labored under the dark night and they failed to recognize that it was Jesus on the shore.
Once they followed His instructions as to where to cast the net, then their work took in a huge haul. On hundred and fifty three fish, we are told. Commentators have offered many imaginative interpretations of the number. Most likely it is a reference to the number of species of fish then classified, indicating that the mission of the Church would be to all nations. The net was not broken, a sign of unity in a community of diverse cultures and races. It took many hands to land the great catch.
It was the disciple Jesus loved who recognized Jesus: “It is the Lord”. John likes to show that one must be lifted up in God’s love before one can believe.
The focus then centers on the meal shared with the Lord on the shore. Jesus asked for some of their fish although He already had some bread and fish cooking on the fire: the mission of the Church would be a combination of divine grace and human effort.
Jesus took the bread and gave it to them, actions which are clear echoes of the Eucharistic offering and meal. And the evangelist, writing in Greek, was well aware that the fish had become a secret sign among the persecuted Christians because the word for fish, ICHTHUS, was made up of the first letters in Greek of Jesus Christ, Son of God, the Savior.
Peter has a high profile in the story, corresponding to his special position in the Christian mission. He went abroad as captain and was the one who finally hauled the net to shore.
But the charcoal fire on the shore links the story with the denials of Peter, for these happened when he had gone to another charcoal fire to warm his hands against the cold of night. Three times Peter had denied his association with Jesus. Now in the new life of Easter all is undone in the healing therapy of three affirmations of his unique love for Jesus. And three times he is given a special pastoral responsibility.
Peter’ future is indicated. The impetuous man who once drew a sword would mature into a perfect follower. He would let go in God’s name. He would be willing to be led by another: no longer resisting, no longer compelled to fight back. In perfect discipleship he would be willing to die for the glory of God. Peter would lead the Church, not in his own way, but by following Jesus … even unto death. For as St. Paul puts it: “If we have died with Him, then we shall live with Him” (2 Timothy 2:11).
The whole story is a great meditation on the presence of the risen Lord in the mission of the Church, in the Eucharistic breaking of the bread, and in the pastoral leadership bestowed upon Peter.
The words of the disciple whom Jesus loved gives us a prayer of faith: “It is the Lord”.
When you have fallen back into the old ways … when you’ve labored through the darkness of night … and the nets come in empty … the peer through the mists with the courage that comes from knowing that you’re loved. There is one who stands on the shore. It is the Lord!
Note: Adapted from Father Silvester O’Flynn OFMCap., The Good News of Luke’s Year, Dublin, Ireland: 1991 [revised edition], The Columbia Press in association with Cathedral Books, pages 78-80.
Short Prayer: Lord Jesus, increase my faith in You and Your power to intervene in my life. Come powerfully, Lord, to deal with the greatest problems that I have right now. Transform them, Lord. Transform me too. And draw me closer to you. Amen.
Jakarta, 3 May 2019
A Christian Pilgrim