LORD MAKE US VERITABLE INSTRUMENTS IN YOUR VINEYARD
(Sunday 05 May, 2019 Third Sunday of Easter)
Today's Gospel is one of the post-Resurrection appearances reported by John. Recall that in John's Gospel, Jesus appears first to Mary of Magdala, second to all of the disciples except Thomas, and finally to Thomas and the disciples (which we heard last Sunday). After those appearances, John's Gospel seems to conclude with a reference to other signs that Jesus gave after his Resurrection, which have not been recorded. The end of the chapter, where Jesus asks Peter three times whether he loves Him, most likely is meant to represent the reconciliation that occurred between the community represented by John's Gospel with the larger Christian community represented by Peter. This Gospel reading is a rich and interesting analogy that speaks of Jesus' presence in the Eucharist and our commission to serve others as Jesus did. Last week we heard that Jesus appeared to the gathered disciples in a locked room, probably in Jerusalem. In today's Gospel, the disciples are no longer in Jerusalem; they are in Galilee, returning to their work of fishing. Simon Peter is still presented in the role of a leader: when he announces that he is going fishing, the other disciples followed.
They spent the night fishing but were unsuccessful. The lesson here is that whenever we abandon the work God assigns to us and try to go back either to another one or from where He called us to assume a particular responsibility, we may end up producing nothing as in the case of Peter and his companion as we read in the gospel of today. Christ called them out from their former profession of fishermen to a new and divine vocation of fishers of men and somehow they left it to go back to their former profession of which they spent the whole night and practically caught nothing.
This can as well lead us to the saying of the Psalmist that "If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do its builders' labour. If the Lord does not watch over the city, in vain does the watchman keep vigil. In vain is your earlier rising, your going later to rest, you who toil for the bread you eat: when He pours gifts on His beloved while they slumber (Psalm 127:1). It is obvious in the reading that their Master was not with them and they laboured throughout the night in vain. This reminds us that we must always attach ourselves to God in season and out of season even when the going seems not to be favourable. In fact, without Him, we can do nothing. Despite their fishing skills and expertise, Peter and his companions didn’t get anything on their own, but when their Master Christ came on board, the whole ball game changed and miracle began to happen instantly. Jesus calls to them from the shore, but just as when Jesus first appeared to Mary of Magdala, the disciples did not recognize Him immediately. Still, they followed the stranger's instructions and bring in a large haul of fish. It is at this point that one of the disciples (the “disciple whom Jesus loved”) realized that Jesus is appearing to them. Upon hearing this news, Simon Peter leads the way again, jumping from the boat and swimming to shore.
The other disciples followed in the boat, dragging the fish. The disciples have brought to shore a tremendous catch of fish that Jesus has directed them to find. But once on the shore, they saw that Jesus had already prepared fish and bread on a charcoal fire. Jesus directs the disciples to bring their catch of fish as well. Jesus is host at the meal that follows, feeding the disciples with the bread and fish. In this detail, we see allusions to the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes told in John 6. There are also allusions in this Gospel to our gathering for the celebration of the Mass. In the Eucharist, we too are fed by Jesus in the bread and wine that have become his very Body and Blood. We also find in this story insight about the Presentation of the Gifts at Mass.
The gifts we bring to the altar, bread and wine, are made from gifts that God gave first to us: grain and grapes, the fruit of the earth. God has no need for anything further. Yet God accepts the offering we bring—bread and wine, “the work of human hands”—and transforms our offering into the gift of His very presence. After the meal, Jesus directs Himself to Simon Peter. This John's Gospel could be directly linked to Peter’s denial of Jesus three times.
This dialogue with Simon Peter is a reversal of Peter's three denials. Peter is forgiven. Having been restored to friendship with Jesus, Simon Peter is sent on a mission. “Feed my lambs . . . Tend my sheep . . . Feed my sheep.” These commands indicate that Peter is to be as Jesus, even unto sacrificing for the flock. As Jesus has fed Peter in this meal and as Jesus feeds us in the Eucharist, so he also sends us to follow him, asking that we offer our lives in service and sacrifice. It is from this instruction and mandate of “Feed my lambs, look after my sheep, feed my sheep” that gave Peter the moral strength and the impetus to challenge the authority without fear or favour and condemn them of their suppression against the work of God. In this first reading, we see Peter assuming the role of the first among equals, the head of the college of the apostles and the leader of the Christian community to speak on their behalf before the Jewish leaders. Here, Peter is not only feeding the sheep but also he was looking after the sheep to see that the authorities will not intimidate them with their threats and suppression.
The role of Peter ought to be a reference point to us. Whenever we are giving a leadership responsibility to be in charge of a group, how do we discharge such duty? Do we place our own interest first or that of the common good of the group? Peter was never found wanting or sheer away from in his own leadership responsibility of defending the Church. He took the bold steps to speak always for the Church without minding what it can cause him. Therefore, Christ is calling each and every one of us today asking us whether we love Him. If we do as Peter responded in affirmation, then Christ is still demanding from us to work for the common good and growth of the Church as He admonished Peter with the following words “Feed my lambs, look after my sheep, feed my sheep”
Let Us Pray: Lord Jesus, give me grace to love you with my whole heart. May I serve you in the people all the days of my life. Amen.