For the Journey

Simon Peter is about to be caught again by the Fisherman. Again we watch and listen to all that is going on.
It is daybreak; it is no longer night. Jesus as light has come to illumine the dark and “overcome the darkness.” Peter had denied his teacher three times while warming himself at night by a charcoal fire.

Perhaps Jesus has a loving smile as he prepares a charcoal fire around which he will initiate a reconciliation with his student. The scene is set. Where are you sitting or standing? Perhaps you can stand next to Jesus as he again invites his friends to face the fact: not that they aren’t good fishermen but to remember his words, “Apart from Me you can do nothing.” So he asks them if they have caught anything. Their brief negative answer heightens the drama.

Perhaps Jesus asks you whether it is time for the big catch. They are the ones who will be caught by following the instructions of Jesus. They make a great haul and so does Jesus. Peter gets a funny feeling that he has seen this picture before, and he jumps into the water and makes his way into the light of the morning. There is the fish already cooking and Jesus gently invites Peter to bring some of the other fish for a fine breakfast. Jesus offers them bread and fish as a sign that it is really him; he has come to catch them up in his net of forgiveness.

This is not the happy ending though. As you sit with them, Peter needs something more than breakfast; he needs some words, some conversation, to make this all real. So Jesus, knowing this human need in us all, directly asks Peter three times, while warming himself again by a charcoal fire, “Do you love me?” Three times Peter unties the knot of denial with which he bound himself in the darkness. Jesus is not insisting, He is loosening and freeing Peter from his shame. This is still not the happy ending.

The happy ending has echoes of the first happy beginning when Jesus first called Peter to “be not afraid” and “come follow me.” Jesus reminds Peter of his first call and his first beginning. Peter looks back to where he has been and then forward to the unknown where of his future. “When you were young you put on your own belt and walked where you liked, but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will put a belt round you and take you where you would rather not go.”

This is the happy ending, though it might sound somber and frightening. Peter follows Jesus, though he does have some concerns about his friend John: “What about him?”

We are called this week to again be caught by his love. Again we are asked to put our regrets and infidelities into the charcoal fire. Again we have our own questions about our futures, but he calls us again back to our dignity as his sisters and brothers. We would like to stay on the shore eating bread and fish. We would like to build three tents here and not hand out any maps. We have prayed enough these weeks to know that He was sent to us, “as the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Reconciliation, nourishing, gathering, comforting, are all essential elements of being on mission with Christ.

So we pick up the pieces of bread and fish and they go with us as signs that he came to stay while being with us as men and women for others.

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