Living the Gospel – May 1, 2022

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On this third Sunday of Easter, we are presented with the third appearance of Jesus to his disciples. While the first two appearances occurred in a room behind closed doors, this third appearance occurs in a context that the disciples were familiar with: fishing. One could wonder as to why the disciples went back to their past occupation. Maybe they were trying to piece their lives back together. Apparently, they were not very successful because they caught no fish after toiling all night. Today’s gospel reading is filled with symbolism and imagery. We have the images of the disciples as fishermen in a boat, Peter scantily clad, a net full of fish, Jesus as a cook, bread and fish and the symbolism of the number 153, a net that was able to withstand a large catch without breaking, the triple questioning of Peter by Jesus, and a prediction of how Peter would die. It is impossible to reflect on all these so I will instead focus on one theme that stood out for me. The theme that I was drawn to is that of “detachment.” Peter was still clinging on to his old occupation, his former way of life. His wanting to go fishing is indicative of this attachment. But if he was to be a true leader of this new community he had to quit relying on his knowledge, on what he was familiar with, and instead open himself to the grace of Jesus’ spirit that would guide him toward abundance. On his own, he and his companions would experience only the darkness of the night and emptiness. In verse 15, Jesus’ question to Peter: “do you love me more than these?” could be taken to mean whether Peter loved Jesus more than the other disciples loved Jesus or even whether Peter loved Jesus more than he loved the other disciples. However, if we consider the context, another interpretation could be whether Peter loved Jesus more than he loved his fishing trade. By asking Peter thrice whether he loved him, Jesus was pushing Peter to reflect on whether Jesus was more important to Peter than everything else. And, if indeed Jesus was, then the proof of this love would be in the care that Peter would have for Jesus’ sheep and lambs. Note, that it is not Peter’s sheep but Jesus’ in the same way that the net bursting with fish was not a result of the effort of Peter and his companions but rather because of Jesus’ direction. During this Easter season, we are invited to reflect on our own relationship with Jesus. Do we truly love Jesus above everything else? Or are there ways of life, addictions to things or behaviors that come in the way of being truly free to do God’s will? Do our qualifications and knowledge become an obstacle to our following God’s direction in our lives? As we become detached from all that blocks us from experiencing the grace of Jesus’ spirit in our lives and as we strive to think about and serve others, lo and behold, we might suddenly become aware that Jesus has a fire going and wishes to cook breakfast for us.