3rd Sunday of Easter (Ages 6-9): Abundance, Mercy, Matter
(Adults, you could begin by reading the Gospel aloud to the child. Alternatively, you could read the first paragraph of the reflection to the child, then read the Gospel, and then continue with the reflection.)
This Sunday we celebrate the third Sunday of Easter. We are not even halfway through this great feast of the Resurrection. We will take seven Sundays to celebrate the feast of Jesus rising from the dead, so full of the Risen Life of God that he can never die again. In the Gospel reading for this Sunday, we hear another account of the Resurrection. The disciples are no longer in Jerusalem, but are back in Galilee by the great lake sometimes called the Sea of Galilee or the Sea of Tiberias.
After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing.’ They said to him, ‘We will go with you.’
When Jesus appears to the disciples in Jerusalem, he breathes the Holy Spirit into them and tells them to forgive sins. He tells them to spread God's mercy into the world. The disciples do not seem to be forgiving sins. They do not seem to be spreading mercy. They are fishing.
They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.
We wonder why the disciples do not recognize Jesus again. Later we hear that they are not very far from the shore. Perhaps they cannot see very well. Perhaps they do not expect to see Jesus. Perhaps they still do not quite understand the Resurrection.
Jesus said to them, ‘Children, you have no fish, have you?’ They answered him, ‘No.’ He said to them, ‘Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’ So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish.
The net is so full of life, they cannot even pull it into the boat! Where there were no fish, now there is a ridiculous amount of fish! Where there was no life, now there is abundant life! It is a sign. What can it mean?
Where have we heard about abundant life before? In the parable of the Good Shepherd, Jesus says,
I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
We know how to read this sign! We know who it means.
That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the lake. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.
This is funny—not because Simon Peter is naked. People sleep naked on long hot nights. It probably felt cooler in the boat not to wear any clothes. It is funny because when Simon Peter hears that it is the Lord on the beach, he puts his clothes on to jump into the water! Why does he not swim naked, carrying his clothes, keeping them dry over his head? For that matter, why does he not bring the boat into shore with the others? These would be sensible choices. What do Simon Peter's actions tell us?
When Simon Peter knows the Lord is near, he does not think sensibly—he is too full of joy! Joy cannot be contained! Joy makes us jump and dance and shout! And apparently, in Simon Peter, joy makes him jump into the water with his clothes on.
When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.’
Where did this bread and fish come from? This is a meal that Jesus has prepared.
So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn.
Simon Peter places the sign of abundant life beside the meal that Jesus has prepared.
Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish.
Jesus, the Good Shepherd, feeds the disciples a meal he has prepared with a sign of abundance. They know that Jesus is the Lord.
We know that Jesus is the Lord, too. Does the Good Shepherd feed us a meal that he prepares? Is this a sign of abundant life, too?
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ He said to him the third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’...And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.
Jesus takes Simon Peter off by himself, just the two of them, to talk. Why? Why does Jesus keep repeating himself, asking Simon Peter if he loves him? Simon Peter is correct—the Lord knows everything—so why does he keep asking?
Before Jesus dies, before he is even arrested, Simon Peter says he will never desert Jesus. He says he will stand with Jesus always. But after Jesus is arrested, Simon Peter does not stand with Jesus. Simon Peter says he does not even know Jesus—not once, not twice, but three times. Perhaps Simon Peter has not been forgiving sins as Jesus has asked him to do because he knows that he himself is the worst sinner.
Could it be that Simon Peter needs his own sins forgiven?
When Simon Peter feels like this, Jesus comes to him and asks him three times, "Do you love me?" Jesus gives Simon Peter the chance to say three times, not only that he knows Jesus, but that he loves Jesus. This is mercy. Simon Peter has sinned, yes, but Jesus forgives him. He shows Simon Peter that love is stronger than sin.
What else does Jesus do? Three times Jesus, the Good Shepherd, tells Simon Peter to take care of his sheep. He gives Simon Peter, a sinner, a share of the Good Shepherd's work. They will work together to build the Kingdom of God. Simon Peter matters. Simon Peter might think he is the worst sinner ever, but he is forgiven, he is needed, he is loved. There is work to be done, and Jesus says to Simon Peter,
This is what Jesus does with all of us, is it not? When we know we are sinners, he comes to us with his forgiveness and his mercy. He waits for us to remember the sign of abundance so he can feed us, too. He gives us a share of the work to build the Kingdom of God. WE matter. We might think we are the worst sinners ever, but we are forgiven, we are need, we are loved. There is work to be done, and what does Jesus say?