Homily for the Third Sunday of Easter

Christ Appears on the Shore of Lake Tiberias by James Tissot

Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?

Let’s take a look at what’s happening in this story…
Scripture tells us the risen Jesus continued to appear to his disciples
for 40 days before ascending into heaven.
So this story finds Peter and a couple of other apostles,
within weeks of the resurrection already back to work: fishing!

Let's take a look at this scene...

Notice how Jesus stands a bit off to the side, on the shore,
while Peter and his crew are out in their boat.

(Perhaps in the same way Jesus stands on the shores of our lives
at work, at home, at school, at play - Jesus is there…)

For some reason,
they don’t recognize that it’s Jesus who calls out to them.

(Perhaps in the same way
we’re often blind to the presence of Jesus

and fail to recognize his voice, or even to hear him speaking…)

Their nets have failed them all night and they’re discouraged
until they take Jesus’ advice and do it his way -
and then they haul in more fish than they can handle.

(Perhaps in the same way that we discover
“doing things our way” often leads to failure
while doing it the Lord’s way yields better results…)

Of course Jesus is working towards much more here
than just a better bottom line for Peter’s fishing business.
What Jesus wants is a closer relationship with these men.

He helps them bring in a great catch so he can get them to shore
and once they’re ashore he wants to have breakfast with them,
to sit on the beach and spend time with them,
to share the bread and fish he’s prepared for them…

(I wonder...
how often do we approach Jesus
just to improve our own bottom line:
to get what we need or want or hope for…

And how often do we just take time to get closer to Jesus?

to spend time with him on the beach,
to get to know him better,
to become better friends with him?)

It might be the second part of this story
that keeps us busy in our boats, praying for success,
but reluctant to join Jesus on the beach.
Look what happens when you go ashore with Jesus.
He gets personal!
See how he pulls Peter aside.
This is Peter who only a few weeks before,
denied not once, not twice but three times that he even knew Jesus.
Imagine how Peter felt when Jesus said,
“Hey, Pete - got a few minutes to talk?”
But Jesus doesn’t mention Peter’s triple denial - at least not directly.
Instead he asks, softly, but bluntly,
“Peter, do you love me more than these?”

(He can’t say no because he does in fact love Jesus.

But if he says yes, how can he explain
how he failed Jesus
in his hour of need?)

Peter dodges the bullet:
“Of course, Lord, you know I love you!”

“Well, then,” says Jesus, “feed my lambs.
If you love me, show me:
feed those who are hungry for food, starving for love.”

At this point,
Peter wants to get back to his friends around the charcoal fire
but Jesus tugs on his sleeve and asks again,
“Peter, do you love me?”

Peter’s getting more uncomfortable.
How long will Jesus keep this up?

“Yes, Lord, you know that I love you!”

“Then tend my sheep, Peter.
Take care of those in need.
Protect them, guard them, guide them, care for them.”

Peter’s looking over Jesus’ shoulder at the glowing embers in the fire
when the question comes a third time, “Peter, do you love me?”

“Lord, you know everything! You know how I failed you!
But you know I love you, too - please believe me in spite of my sin!”

And Jesus says, quietly,
“Feed my sheep, Peter.
Care for the others.
And follow me…”

(How many times do we promise to do better - and fail yet again?
How many times have we denied Jesus in our words and deeds?

How many times have we told him we love him?

How many times has he asked us to care for others?
Are we following him? walking in his footsteps?)

The risen Jesus sits on the shores of our lives, too,
watching over us, calling out to us,
showing us how to do things his way,
teaching us how to live, to work, to play…

And he calls us ashore to sit with him,
to spend some time with him, to get to know him better…

He invites us to be nourished by what he’s prepared for us…
And what he has readied for us is more than fish and bread:
he sets this table and offers for our supper his own life,
his body and blood in the sacrament of the Eucharist.

And in our heart of hearts he calls each of us by name,
again and again, asking,
“Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me?”

And he invites us,
“Come! Walk by my side. Go where I go.
Feed, nourish, serve and care for those we meet along the way.
Follow me…”

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  1. Terrific insight and very hard for me to swallow when I know that I too have been more keen to metaphorically go fishing rather than spend time getting to know Jesus and others around me.
    Yep, this is me most of the time....
    "how often do we approach Jesus
    just to improve our own bottom line:
    to get what we need or want or hope for…?"
    The language of prayer we are taught and the way we live our lives these days all hinges as you put it so succinctly, "on the way we can improve our bottom line".
    I realise that at the age I am now( mid 50's)I really cannot say in all honesty that I know Jesus as a person any better than I did twenty or thirty years ago. So what have I been doing all these years? All I can do is keep trying and hoping. I have known Christ's consolation and I do believe he has challenged me many times but I know I am weak and complacent and I could always do more too. Thanks for this post, even if it picks at me I need it !!

  2. I do love Jesus- and I tell him every day...

    but, it's so easy, for me, to get lost- and I get lost every day.

  3. Thank you Father for that.


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