Eager to put the trauma and disgrace of Good Friday out of their minds, the apostles have slipped back to life as it was before the call of Jesus. They have just got back from a night’s fishing empty handed. A stranger on the shore urges them to cast their nets once more and the result is a miraculous catch of fish. At this moment they recognise the Lord and accept his invitation to share breakfast with him at the lakeside. In Pilate’s courtyard Peter with curses and an oath had denied he knew Jesus and now the memories of how badly he had acted on that occasion were making him uneasy. Jesus knew exactly how he felt and offered him an opportunity to proclaim his love and loyalty to the risen Christ. Peter’s authority, lost by his denial, is now restored through his confession of faith. His position as head of the apostles is clarified and he is given the commission to guard the whole flock in Christ’s name, a role that will lead to a violent death. The Good Shepherd leaves his church in the charge of a man who has failed, which shows that Christ’s call does not exclude falls. Peter came to know God’s grace through failure. Often failure can be the finger of God pointing the way, awakening within us an awareness of our own helplessness. Whatever it was about that lakeside gathering it restored Peter’s confidence, gave him strength to renew his faith and throw himself into the spreading of the gospel.
The challenge which Christ presented to Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these others do?’ is the same challenge facing us. We are to plunge into the waters of life and risk everything for the sake of the Lord. The miraculous catch of fish symbolises the bringing of all people into the reach of God’s mercy. The church will gather, into one unbroken net, men and women of every race, colour and nationality. Like the apostles, everyone has been summoned by Jesus to extend God’s kingdom everywhere. We are to bear effective witness, to go out and preach in his name to a world that does not always want to hear the truth. To be faithful to the ideals of the gospel requires courage, because it is never easy to do what is right when it means we have to go against popular values. Our life’s work is meant to be one of living service to the glory of God. All of us can find some role where we can be helpful to others, whether it be modest, spectacular, important or insignificant. We are presented with daily opportunities to help the elderly, to listen to bereaved neighbours and to give human contact to the lonely, provided we are willing to take time out. It’s as good a day as any to reflect on the way in which we perform or neglect these functions,
Fr Peter Tipene