01 May 2022 – 3rd Sunday of Easter, Year C
1st Reading: Acts 5:27-32, 40-41
The apostles were put on trial for preaching the Gospel
When they had brought them, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us.”
But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Saviour that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”
When they had called in the apostles, they had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. As they left the council, they rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonour for the sake of the name.
Responsorial: Psalm 29: 2, 4-6, 11-13
R./: I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me
I will praise you, Lord, you have rescued me
and have not let my enemies rejoice over me.
O Lord, you have raised my soul from the dead,
restored me to life from those who sink into the grave. (R./)
Sing psalms to the Lord, you who love him,
give thanks to his holy name.
His anger lasts but a moment; his favour through life.
At night there are tears, but joy comes with dawn. (R./)
The Lord listened and had pity.
The Lord came to my help.
For me you have changed my mourning into dancing;
O Lord my God, I will thank you for ever. (R./)
2nd Reading: Revelation 5:11-14
The throne of the Lamb, a vision of Christ crucified and the risen
Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, singing with full voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing!” Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, singing, “To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honour and glory and might forever and ever!” And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the elders fell down and worshiped.
Gospel: John 21:1-19
The risen Jesus appears on the shore of Lake Tiberias, and confirms Peter as chief pastor
After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. 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 after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.
Jesus said to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many 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 some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped 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, only about a hundred yards off. When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish 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 fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn.
Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared 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.” Jesus 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.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter felt hurt 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. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, “Follow me.”
Caught in his net
Could we imagine ourselves as among the fish that Jesus sent Peter out to catch? Like them, we are immersed in a sea of troubles and distractions, moved by every ripple of excitement, shaken by the level of doubt and disbelief that marks our world today. We spend so much energy on what are ultimately trivialities. We dally with temptation, and let ourselves be hooked by unhealthy lures, from gambling to drugs to vacuous celebrity. It is little wonder that Christ chose simple fishermen when he chose his first apostles.
Today’s story reflects the miracle of salvation as an offer. Through his church, Christ has thrown over us his net of salvation, a net of grace. He says: “The kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind.” Though it remains unseen beneath the surface, we are drawn into it, if we let that happen. We can make our own the prayer “may we be caught in God’s net”… “I liontaibh Dé go gcastar sinn.”
The miraculous catch of fish is really about the grace of God. There is no telling what size the catch will be until the net is finally drawn in at the end of time. Like today’s catch, it may well astonish even the most seasoned fisherman. Who knows what queer fish will be caught there spluttering and gasping at the wonder of God’s mercy? The “big catch” is Christ’s answer to those prophets of gloom who imagine that most people are outside his reach.
Invited to breakfast
What a wonderful, happy meeting between Jesus and his apostles on the lakeshore. He appears to them, so that they will have no doubt that he is risen from the dead. The meeting includes a miraculous catch of fish, followed by the human touch of Jesus preparing breakfast for the apostles. Meeting him again after the Passion healed all Peter’s feelings of guilt for denying Jesus in the house of the High Priest.
For Jesus to cook breakfast for the Apostles was a special moment. They must have remembered that this was the same Lord who had wrapped a towel around his wais and washed their feet at the Last Supper. Some things never change, and Jesus is “the same yesterday, today, and always.” Although he has gone through death and has the freedom of life-beyond-death, he still keeps that human touch, a down-to-earth relationship with those who are his friends.
Is it not surprising that Peter never actually apologises, in so many words? It’s hard to accept that “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” When the woman washed his feet with her tears Jesus said, “Many sins are forgiven her because she loves much.” Peter could have spent the rest of his life confessing his sins, or he could simply open his heart and say aloud what he felt, that he really did love Jesus. He was direct and uncomplicated, knowing full well that Jesus loved him.
Peter, because of his failures and being humbled by them, was the ideal person to choose to lead the others. He had recoiled at the idea of Jesus washing his feet, but once he saw what it meant he welcomed this sign of loving service. Because he could not afford to point his finger at others’ weaknesses, he had the compassion needed in a religious leader. To be a leader like Jesus, was to be of service to others.
Do you really love me?
The meeting with Jesus beside the lakeshore can be seen as the story of Peter’s repentance and restoration. Others prefer to see it as his Confession, or declaration of faith. His repeated answer “Yes, Lord!” is surely a declaration of love and loyalty. It is not so easy is to see how it can be a confession of guilt. But it does corresponded to Peter’s threefold denial of Jesus.
There are interesting uses of the word “love” in this text. In English, when Jesus asks “Do you love me?” and Peter answers, “Yes, I love you,” it makes good sense. But in the Greek original of the New Testament, what Peter replies does not respond exactly to the question Jesus asked. Greek has several words to express various levels of affection. In his book The Four Loves, he Belfast-born author C.S. Lewis described them as follows: There is Storgé (affection) the quiet liking you might feel for a cheerful neighbour whom you meet from time to time. Then there is eros, a sensual or erotic love, the love that unites a couple and often leads to marriage. Another term is Philia, or friendship, a trusting companionship with people with whom we share some real interest. Finally there is Agapé, which means generous, self-giving love, which we value even when there is nothing tangible to be gained.
Back to our gospel story. Jesus asks Peter, “Agapas me, Do you have agapé for me?” meaning “Do you love me enough to risk everything for me.” Peter has not lived up to this kind of love. He had disowned Jesus in order to save his own skin. So what can he say? He answers, “Philo se. Yes, Lord, I love you as a friend.” He was saying, “Yes, I admire you… but I was unable to risk my life for you.” Jesus asks him a second time “Agapas me?” and again Peter answers at the level of friendship (philia). Finally, unwilling to embarrass him further, Jesus asks him “Are you really my friend?” (phileis me?) And Peter answers “Lord, you know everything; you know that I am your friend.” (σὺ γινώσκεις ὅτι φιλῶ σε.) Jesus accepts Peter just as he is; even friendship (philia) is good enough, for now. Fullness of agapé would come later, when Peter was put to death for the faith.
In that meeting beside the lake, Peter was not the boastful man who thought he was better than the other disciples but a wiser, humbler heart that would not claim more than he can deliver. Peter’s confession is like that of the father of the possessed boy who said to Jesus, “I believe; help my unbelief!” Implicitly, what Peter said was, “I love you, Lord; help my lack of love.”
In the hymn: The Love of my Lord Is the Essence we profess in church our love for God. Peter’s meeting with the risen Christ reminds us that professions of love tell only side of the truth. In reality, our love is hardly ever unconditional, and we often back away when faced with danger. Like Peter, we need to to bring our failures to God for healing. We can join Peter today when he declares: “I love you, Lord; help my lack of love.”