Who were these guys in that boat? The gospel opens today – after the Resurrection – with Peter, James, John, Thomas, and several other Apostles going fishing. It’s just another day for them. Imagine: these guys had seen Jesus arrested; one of them followed Him all the way to the Cross and saw Him die, and was probably there for the burial; they were together in the Upper Room when that same Jesus walked through the walls and greeted them, showing Himself to be alive; they all rejoiced to see Him risen. That must have truly been a life-changing experience!
But here they are – going fishing like nothing in the last three years had ever happened. Only John recognized Jesus when He called to them from the shore. Why weren’t they out proclaiming this new life in Jesus to anyone who would listen? Didn’t that resurrection matter? Didn’t their encounter with the risen Jesus change their entire outlook on life?
Instead, the Apostles went back to what they knew, to what was familiar, to where they were comfortable, and life didn’t demand too much from them.
Aren’t we a lot like them? We know that Jesus is life-changing and important, but do our lives and our choices always reflect that? Are we moved to share Christ with others because we ourselves have been changed? Or are we more likely to be doing what is comfortable, what is not as demanding or as outside of our comfort levels? Is our practice of our faith a real response to what Jesus has done in our lives or is it more a matter of having nothing else better to do?
Before anyone feels like I am bashing the casual Mass attender, or the Christmas and Easter churchgoers, I want to draw your attention back to the first disciples. These guys physically encountered Jesus after the Resurrection. They saw Him – once dead, now alive. And even they went one with life as usual. How does God feel about that? What does Jesus do with these such casual disciples?
Look at the gospel. Jesus invites them, again, to a meal with Him. He welcomes them – right where they are – to share time and fellowship with Him. This is the nature of the Church – the Body of Christ, the risen Lord – who looks at you – all of you – and welcomes you to this table again. The invitation, in fact, is always there.
When Jesus takes Peter aside, He has a personal conversation with him – just as He wishes to have with you. He calls Peter by name – the man who had denied even knowing Him – and He calls him to share in His love. Jesus asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” not because He is insecure or unhappy with the response. Rather, that question is another invitation.
The first two times that Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” He uses the word for love that means sacrificial love – the love Christ showed by suffering and dying on the Cross. This is what Jesus is inviting Peter to. Each time, Peter responds with “Yeah, you know I love you.” But that love that Peter expresses is more like “buddy love,” like a manly jab on the shoulder. Peter isn’t ready to offer that kind of love, and Jesus doesn’t fault him for it. He knows Peter will show that love one day, just not yet. So he asks Peter to give the love that he can, and Peter does – perhaps a little sad that he wasn’t at that point in his relationship with Jesus, in his discipleship. However, what he has, Peter gives; and Jesus receives it.
This is what Jesus offers us. Are we ready to offer our lives to Him? Are we ready to spend ourselves in sharing Him with others? Or are we still casual disciples – showing up from time to time, maybe feeling a little uncomfortable or guilty for it? No matter; you are here, and Jesus is here too. He stands ready to receive you, and He invites you just as He did the Apostles on their boat. Come and share His meal; and when you are ready, feed His other sheep with that Word, with His sacrament, and tend them in a new relationship with the Lord who is calling them too.