This weekend as we celebrate the third Sunday of Easter, we continue with the appearances of the risen Lord as recounted in John’s Gospel. This Sunday’s Gospel selection is packed with details, beginning by taking us to the shore of the Sea of Galilee where the disciples, who are out on the sea fishing, encounter once again the risen Jesus who is waiting for them on land. The Gospel implies that they do not recognize Jesus physically as his appearance has been glorified in the resurrection, but they do recognize him in faith due to their catch of fish having followed Jesus’s command to lower their nets.
This is Peter’s first personal encounter with Jesus since denying knowing him while in the court yard of the high priest during Jesus’s trial. What a change we see in Peter.
Most of us would be reluctant from guilt to come face to face with the Lord, but Peter, who ran from him, now cannot wait to get to him; he doesn’t wait for the boat to get to shore but jumps over the side in a hurry to greet Jesus.
While Peter sinned against the Lord, it is apparent here that Peter trusts in the Lord’s love, mercy, and forgiveness.
While at breakfast, Jesus asks Peter “do you love me more than these?” This could mean one of two things. One interpretation is that Jesus is not comparing Peter’s love for him with Peter’s love for his brothers, but rather that Jesus knows that they all love him but he asks Peter if Peter’s love for him surpasses the others’ love for Jesus. Another interpretation is that Jesus is asking this in reference to the boat and the nets, symbolic of Peter’s former life; Jesus could be asking if Peter is truly willing to leave it all behind for love of him. What is agreed upon by scholars and theologians is that this is the moment of Peter’s rehabilitation. It was next to a fire that Peter denied that Lord three times; here, again by a fire, Jesus affirms his love for Jesus three times, not with great remonstrations as he had done at the Last Supper but simply but saying with emotion “Lord, you know that I love you.”
Assured of his love, Jesus now tells Peter, rather plainly and not hidden in fine print, what the reality of that love will mean, that days will come when Peter will suffer for that love, and in the same breath Jesus once again makes the great invitation to Peter: “follow me.”
As disciples, the same question is asked of us: “do you love me more than these?”
Are we striving to perfect our love for the Lord? Are we willing to place love of him before everything and everyone else? Are we willing to accept the crosses that come from loving him? While loving him will certainly bring crosses, his love will bring us beyond those crosses to greater life, both here and in the life to come. Jesus lays everything out before us concerning discipleship, the good and the unpleasant. He also gives us the same invitation: “follow me.”
What’s our answer?
Father Christopher House is the Rector of the Cathedral and serves in various roles within the diocesan curia, namely Chancellor and Vicar Judicial.
**Please note there is NO 5:15 PM Mass Tuesday, May 7th.**