Five years ago, I had an opportunity to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. One of the things that I have come to appreciate about that experience is the way in which it helps to make the Gospels come alive. By connecting the events of the lives of Jesus and his disciples to specific places, it helps us to remember that the events in the Gospels are not myths or made-up legends. They are true events, that took place at a definite time in human history.
One of the sites that we visited on our pilgrimage was the site that commemorates this weekend’s Gospel, where the risen Jesus appears to his Disciples on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias, also known as the Sea of Galilee. The passage begins with the disciples going fishing, and ends with Jesus calling Peter to feed his sheep. This is a fascinating passage, and there is a lot to unpack here!
The passage begins with the disciples going fishing- their former way of life. This is after they have encountered the risen Jesus, and after he has given them the mission to forgive sins, and to be witnesses of his resurrection from the dead. The joy that was experienced when the disciples met the Risen Lord has faded, and is seemingly replaced with resignation.
Jesus, however, does not respond by appearing to the disciples and berating them for not fulfilling their mission. Jesus instead reminds the disciples of their call by once again leading them to a miraculous catch of fish. Peter once again realizes that the Lord is present to them, and he runs to shore to meet him. This experience was a powerful reminder of the call that the disciples received to follow Jesus at the beginning of his ministry. Now, after the resurrection, it serves as a renewal of that call, reminding the disciples that they are now called to spread the Gospel to all the nations.
As our focus shifts to the exchange between Peter and Jesus, we can feel Peter’s hurt as Jesus repeatedly asks, “do you love me?” Peter might be thinking that Jesus does not trust him, because of Peter’s denial of Jesus during his passion. There is much more at stake here than a simple “undoing” of Peter’s denial. Jesus’ response to each question reminds Peter of what it means to love Jesus. Love of Jesus means loving those that he cares for: the sheep of his flock. We are called to follow this example as well. As we continue this Easter season, may God continue to help us grow in love of his Son, and follow his example of service and caring for the sheep of his flock.
Sincerely in Christ,
Fr. Steven Huber, CSB