A Lakeside Breakfast with the Risen Lord

[SHS Baccalaureate Mass.  Jn. 21:1-14.  22 April 2022.]

In the Gospel of John, the Resurrected Lord appears to the disciples first on the evening of Easter Sunday.  They were gathered together behind locked doors for they were afraid of the Jews.  Suddenly Jesus is in their midst and wishes them Peace.  He shows them his hands and his feet, and the disciples rejoice.  Already with that first appearance, he missions them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them.  Whose sins you retain are retained.” As a fruit of the Resurrection, he sends out his disciples to forgive sins. 

Thomas was not with them then and shows himself skeptical of what the other disciples have reported to him.  A week later, Jesus appears to the disciples again, this time with Thomas present.  He wishes all Peace.  Then very personally he says to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand here and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving but believe.”  Responding to the Lord alive, present and addressing his earlier disbelief, he responds with what is a high point in John’s Gospel, “My Lord and my God!”

The Gospel of John could have ended at that point.  But it continues with the passage from John the Church gives to you on the day of your graduation from Senior High School.  Here, Jesus is at the shoreline of the Sea of Tiberias also known as the northern Lake of Galilee.  He has a charcoal fire going to prepare breakfast.  He means “to reveal himself again to his disciples.” 

The day previous, on the suggestion of Peter, the disciples went fishing.  They had labored the whole night, but had caught nothing.  They see the man on the shore, but they do not recognize him.  He asks, “Have you anything to eat?”  “No,” they answer. They are tired, and the question only sharpens their frustration.  Then, as many times in the Gospel of John, Jesus sets a sign to reveal himself, his power, his relationship with his Father.  “Cast your net over the right side of the boat and you will find something!” he calls out.  They do.  Their catch was overwhelming.  To fishermen it was specially eye opening.  John understands the sign, and tells Peter, “It is the Lord!”  Peter gets it, puts on clothes, then jumps into the water to meet Jesus in all his excitement, even as the other disciples labor at bringing in the extraordinary catch of fish.  Cooking even some of the 153 fish the disciples dragged ashore, the Resurrected Lord prepared breakfast for them.  In this way he revealed himself alive, eating with them, helping them overcome their fear, preparing them for mission. 

What follows the lakeside breakfast in John’s Gospel is Jesus’ intimate conversation with Peter.  It is as if the breakfast is but as prelude for this intimate encounter.  For all of Peter’s bravado, when Jesus was arrested, he denied him thrice.  We know that when Peter had realized what he had done, he wept bitterly in remorse.    So now in their first intimate face-to-face encounter since his death and resurrection, Jesus asks him, “Do you love me.” Peter says yes. Jesus tells him.  “Feed my lambs.”  But then Jesus asks him again, “Do you love me?” Peter says “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”  Jesus tells him, “Tend my sheep.” But then a third time Jesus asks him, “…Do you love me.”  Peter, distressed at the repeated question, replies, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”  Jesus replies, “Feed my sheep.”  In this encounter between Jesus and Peter, for as many times as Peter denied him, he draws out his confession of love.  For as many times Peter confesses his love, Jesus forgives his earlier failures to love.  For as many times Peter confesses his love,  Jesus missions him now to care for his lambs, to care for his sheep.

In your senior high school, you have heard it over and over again: love, love love!  Hopefully, this is something you will not allow yourselves to forget as you move on in your journey of life.  Many times, things do not go the way you expect.  In your senior high school in pandemic years, there were many examples of this.  Many times, like the disciples, you went fishing the whole night and caught nothing.  Many times, it may have been difficult for you to find God, to acknowledge that he was and continues to be with you, especially in your moments of fear and discouragement.  Many times he appears in your life, knowing quite well what you are experiencing, but you do not recognize him.  And yet, quietly he has continued to lead you, helping you to cast your nets where you can be fruitful and successful.  Many times, using the fruit of your faith, he continues to nourish you.  And then to you, he asks, “Do you love me?”  “Do you love me?”  “Do you love me?”  And if you say, “Yes, yes, yes, I love, love, love,”  Jesus replies, “Feed my lambs. Feed my sheep. Feed my sheep.”  Love, love, love.  Where there is hatred, love.  Where there is poverty, love.  Where there is ignorance, love.  Where there is disbelief, remember: God is love.  His Son is love.  His Spirit is love.  Be strong in faith and truthful in deeds because God accepts your love. 

This is what the Resurrected Lord reveals on the shore of the Lake of Galilee. 

About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
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