C Cycle – 3rd Sunday of Easter 22
Anyone who knows me, know how I love the scriptures. I began reading them 50 years ago and over those years I have heard God’s voice speaking to me through them. I have discovered his desire for intimacy with us, I have discovered his plan to remove the barrier of sin between ourselves and him through the sacrifice of Jesus. I have discovered how he has gifted us with all we need to be holy men and women of God. I have discovered how we are to respond to those desires of God.
Last week we heard John in his gospel tell us “…what he has written was so we would come to believe that Jesus is the Christ and by believing have life” (Jn.20:31). That life is not just eternal life but the life of living in the Kingdom of God here in our midst.
One thing I have learned in reading the scriptures is to pay attention to those verses which may not seem important to the overall message given to us. Today’s reading is one of those where the overall message of Jesus forgiving Peter overshadows a message about our response to how we respond to our failures and our response to the message of the resurrection.
We know from the scriptures from the moment they saw the empty tomb, the disciples failed to understand the resurrection. The scriptures are clear, they believed but what his rising meant was beyond their understanding. After his resurrection, when he appears to them in the upper room, they were overjoyed but still did not understand. When he breathed the Holy Spirit upon them and told them he was sending them as the Father sent him, they remained in that upper room.
They failed to understand the connection with God breathing the breath of life into Adam and how Jesus was breathing the breath of new life by the Holy Spirit into them. They did not realize his inviting Thomas to touch the nail marks in his hands and put his hand in his side was more than proof he was alive. It was also telling them what he endured was real and his rising is the fulfillment of the promise for one to die for our sins and the promise of eternal life.
With all of that going on they remained confused and uncertain about their future when Peter says, “I am going fishing.” It is an amazing statement and a normal human response when we are conflicted and have no answers to the struggles in our faith journey. When we face challenges to what we know and believe, we like Peter retreat to the familiar and the comfortable.
Like Peter it is easier to go fishing, to return to the familiar, than to deal with something we fail to understand, and which is out of our control. It is easier for us to avoid all the challenges of Christ to step into the unknown and trust where he is leading us. It was not easy to be a disciple before the crucifixion but at least they had him to help them understand what they failed to grasp. After his rising, they are uncertain about their future and what his presence meant.
When Peter said he was going fishing, notice how easy it was for six other disciples go with him. It is easy for us to get people to follow us when we are asking them to do something when it is familiar and comfortable to them. But notice how we hesitate to step out when it is something we have no experience with and when it is outside our comfort zone.
One thing the scriptures show us is how Jesus will not stop coming to us, inviting us, revealing himself to us, speaking to us and inviting us to respond to him.
Peter’s uncertainty about Jesus’ resurrection and appearances motivated him to go back to what was comfortable for him. Compare his desire to avoid the confusion by going fishing to his response when Christ invites him to walk on water. His response then shows us how faith and trust in Christ allows us to do the impossible but when uncertainty about how to respond to Christ leads us to seek what is comfortable.
This action by Peter in response to the resurrection tells us two things about our own journey into the heart of God. First it tells us how easy it is for us to fail to respond to the plan of God for us to become holy men and women of God. It also tells us how easy how easy it is not to recognize the voice of God inviting us to open our hearts to receive him. You would have thought after three years in his presence they would have recognize him or his voice when he calls out to them. But none of them did until they filled their nets and John cries out “it is the Lord.” Who is the John in our lives, shaking us out of our places of comfort and revealing Christ to us?
This is more than a story about Peter and his being forgiven for denying Christ. It is a story about us and our response to the resurrected Christ. This gospel is an invitation to us to seek an encounter with the risen Lord. To discover how God has gifted each of us for the work of building the kingdom of God. Even a vibrant parish cannot and should not remain isolated from the rest of the community surrounding it. Each of us is Peter, and collectively we must ask ourselves what we are doing to respond to Christ.
The scriptures speak of a city on a hill, a light shining in the darkness. My brothers and sisters we are that light, and our parish is that city. Christ is inviting us to stop seeking a comfortable faith and instead cast our nets into the deep and experience the joy of bringing the good news of salvation to everyone we encounter. We are to be that light in the darkness lighting the way for eyes to see, ears to hear and hearts to respond.
We can only do that if we are willing to stop fishing and respond to the call of Christ to follow him.