Homily for the third Sunday of Easter - Year C - Jn. 21:1-19


by

Canon Dr. Daniel Meynen
 
 

" After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he revealed himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. 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 as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, «Children, have you any fish?» They answered him, «No.» He said to them, «Cast the net on 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, for the quantity of 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 his clothes, for he was stripped for work, and sprang 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, but about a hundred yards off. When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish lying 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 and fifty-three of them; and although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, «Come and have breakfast.» Now none of the disciples dared ask him, «Who are you?» They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed 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.» He 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.» He said to him, «Tend my sheep.» He said to him the third time, «Simon, son of John, do you love me?» Peter was grieved 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. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go.» This he said to show by what death he was to glorify God. "





Homily:


" After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he revealed himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. 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. "


In celebrating the Easter season, the Church provides us with an opportunity - one of several - to relive the period of forty days which separated the Resurrection of Christ from his Ascension into Heaven. For the Apostles, this was a privileged period during which the risen Jesus remained with them, not in a manner that was always visible, as was the case in the Lord«s apparitions, but rather in a mysterious manner, a spiritual one, sometimes visible, sometimes invisible. But what the Church has us relive liturgically at a particular moment is something we can live and experience throughout our life on earth, day after day, year after year.


Jesus is always here with us! This is our joy! This is our everyday Easter! That is our life in the joy of the Spirit! For Jesus said: "I am with you always, to the close of the age." (Mt. 28:20) Remembering this brings us happiness and joy: this memory, this memorial of the Lord - who becomes sacramental in the Eucharist - is this not a true apparition of the Lord? For Jesus can appear to his disciples in a manner that is mysterious and real through his grace, through the gifts of his Spirit, just as he appeared corporeally and really to his Apostles on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias...


" Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, «Children, have you any fish?» They answered him, «No.» He said to them, «Cast the net on 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, for the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, «It is the Lord!» "


This apparition of Jesus is characteristic, for this episode had already taken place before the Lord's death and resurrection. Let us call to mind that other occurence of miraculous fishing: "He said to Simon, «Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.» And Simon answered, «Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.» And when they had done this, they enclosed a great shoal of fish; and their nets were breaking." (Lk. 5:4-6 - See the homily for the fifth Sunday of the year, Year C) But these two cases of miraculous fishing differ from each other, for, during the time that elapsed between them, the Lord Jesus died and rose again!


" When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his clothes, for he was stripped for work, and sprang 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, but about a hundred yards off. When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish lying 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 and fifty-three of them; and although there were so many, the net was not torn. "


Christ's passage through death and resurrection manifests itself in that, despite the great quantity of fish taken, the net did not break after the resurrection ("the net was not torn" - Jn. 21:11), whereas it did before the resurrection ("their nets were breaking" - Lk. 5:6). At the time of the first miraculous catch of fish, Jesus had said to Simon Peter: "Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men." (Lk. 5:10) The Lord thus compared men and women, of all races and nations, to the fish that Peter had just caught. This comparison was such that, from the earliest years of Christianity, the symbol of the fish was the secret means of signifying one«s membership in Christ. From age to age, this comparison would endure, even in the name of the ring used by the Pope to seal his decrees and ordinances: the Ring of the Fisherman.


Absolutely unequivocally, the fish that Simon caught, both before and after the resurrection of the Lord, are indeed men, at least in a symbolic, mystical way! So if the net did not break after the resurrection, it was to show us that all the men and women caught by Simon Peter are, and shall remain, truly united to each other, by the will of the Lord, who ordered this miraculous catch of fish. Through the grace of the death and resurrection of Christ, that is, through our baptism in his death and resurrection, we Christians, living in the mysterious presence of Jesus, are called by Peter to live in the unity of faith, hope and charity! If there is a grace of the Resurrection, it is that of the unity of all Christians! And if there is indeed an unequivocal sign that will announce to us the Return of the risen Jesus, it is the perfect realization of the unity of all those who belong to Christ and who remain in Him, and He in them: "I am with you always, to the close of the age." (Mt. 28:20)


" 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.» He 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.» He said to him, «Tend my sheep.» He said to him the third time, «Simon, son of John, do you love me?» Peter was grieved 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.» "


We know that Jesus was delivered to the Romans by the Jews, and Peter denied his Master three times: "Truly, I say to you, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times." (Mk. 14:30) This triple denial was one that Peter always regretted: he sincerely asked the Lord for forgiveness, and, in his immense mercy, Christ forgave him, asking Peter three times if he truly loved him. It is true: Peter was forgiven. However, for the rest of his life, Peter continued to bitterly weep for this triple sin. Every time a cock crowed, the memory of his sin made him weep...


If Peter thus wept for his sin, it is because his ministry as the Vicar of Christ and Head of the Church rests upon his triple profession of love for Jesus; on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias, each time Peter told Jesus he loved him, Jesus answered Peter by saying: "Feed my lambs... Feed my sheep..." The Lord thus confirms the authority of Peter over the entire Church until the end of time. But, at the same time, Jesus wants Peter to forever remember the danger he faces and the temptation he had already encountered and to which he had unfortunately succumbed: that of forsaking his Master and renouncing his charge.


" «Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go.» This he said to show by what death he was to glorify God. "


Jesus announces to Peter that he will die crucified, like him. But what does this matter? Jesus is with him! The risen Jesus lives and remains in him, through his Holy Spirit! Already, throughout his life, Peter carries his cross and dies each day upon that wood of torment, but it is in the joy that comes from the Spirit that he fulfills the task entrusted to him by the Lord: that of being a fisher of men! It is true that it is a heavy burden, but what a noble and glorious one!


Living with the entire Church, and in particular with Peter and the Apostles, the Most Blessed Virgin Mary is there to help all who are her children! If Christ is here, in our presence, with his Spirit, then why would not Mary, She who is the Bride of the Holy Spirit, also be mysteriously present, with us and among us? Let us fervently pray to her, in order that the grace of the Resurrection of the Lord might be poured out to an ever greater extent upon the Church and upon the whole world!



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