April 21, 2017
Dear fellow pilgrims,
I greet you, doing the mom stand-and-sway dance from my standing desk (i.e. my laptop on top of a tissue box on my kitchen/living room table) with the babe in the wrap. Happy Friday!
Today’s Gospel is one of my favorite examples of St. Peter’s character. Ol’ jump-in-the-water St. Peter. I wrote about this passage, focusing on his role, last year, so this year I was reading it with a prayer of “God, please show me something new.”
The new insight I had the second time around was how parts of the story parallel the story of the Prodigal Son, where Jesus is the Father and St. Peter is the son... most of the time.
The scene opens with St. Peter making the decision to go fishing, which could be viewed as turning back to the ways of his former life. Fishing is an important context here, because Jesus initially met and called Peter (according to Matthew’s Gospel) while he and his brother Andrew were “casting a net into the lake.” He called them, saying that He would make them “fishers of men.” Making the parallel to the Prodigal Son, this could be seen as Jesus offering His inheritance to Peter, offering him an opportunity to be a coworker of salvation, a child of God. But now, Peter and the other disciples are fishing again, and seem to be slipping back into their old, pre-Jesus ways. They are just fishermen, now, and shiw signs of shrugging off their identities as Christ's disciples. (Perhaps they were just going fishing for sustenance… but I’ll go out on a limb and interpret it more symbolically.)
So, Peter et al. decide to - or at least hint at - become fishermen again, and what happens? They are unsuccessful; they catch no fish. They are effectively just dudes in a boat. They venture out from their identity given by Christ, and they are left with nothing.
But then they are reminded of their identity from a mysterious voice from the shore: “Children…”
Jesus has met them where they are, not where He told them they should go, and gives them what they think they’re looking for, only to remind them that He is the One they are really looking for.
Here, we see the merciful Father in the Son, fathering his flock, giving abundance of material things to recall the abundance of His grace. The parallel to the Prodigal Son, here, is a little reversed, however. Instead of Peter returning to Jesus, Jesus returns to Peter.
Then, instead of the father running out to meet the son, Peter jumps in the lake and hurries to Jesus. I think Jesus is training Peter (the first pope), here, in the ways of fatherhood, giving mercy, by allowing him to joyfully receive and run towards mercy. For let us not forget… Peter had the same essential sin as Judas, denying and betraying Christ, but the difference between them was in how Peter still trusted - no matter how weakly! - in Christ’s mercy. Let us, then, also not forget that the highest office of the Church was founded on the gift of Christ's Mercy, not some great and worthy man!
It is also crucial to note that Peter did not realize it was Jesus… John did. So… what were the rest of the disciples thinking? “Whoa that guy on the shore had a really great suggestion”? Who knows. But it's obvious that what the disciples sans John were not thinking of Jesus as the source of this abundance. This shows how we can sometimes miss the point of material and personal abundance… Jesus is always the giver of a good abundance, but it takes a person who truly loves Jesus to see that it is always from Him. The other disciples probably made the surface-level observation (TONS OF FISH IN THE BOAT, YESSSS) and not the deeper observation that it was Jesus, Who was trying to get their attention through giving this abundance.
Next, we are told that Jesus was already cooking breakfast on the shore. (This is one of my favorite Bible verses to spew, because I love breakfast so much: “As Jesus once said, ‘Come, have breakfast.’”) He had already prepared the meal, but He was also giving His children their own contribution to bring. Now, their hearts, like their boats, were filled to overflowing… they feasted together, and Peter was welcomed back into the identity that Jesus had offered him.
I’ll end with a prayer:
Good Father, may we never grow weary of running back to You,
As You never grow weary of giving us Your abundant Mercy.
Give me eyes, ears, and a heart full of love to truly see You, and harken to Your Voice.
St. Peter, pray for us.
St. John, pray for us.
Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati, pray for us.