Do you have a favorite food or meal? How about pizza, a steak…or burger and fries? Are you a fan of fish? Chicken? No meat at all? We eat to remain healthy and active…and because we enjoy food. For those people among us who suffer food insecurity, we also support our Moscow Food Bank and other means of distributing food, such as Meals on Wheels. In doing so, we are engaging in the Corporal works of mercy, including “feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, sheltering the homeless, and clothing the naked.”
So often the Gospel accounts include Jesus feeding us—the huge crowds with bread and fish, the Last Passover Supper, the simple meal at Emmaus, and today on the shore of Lake Galilee a meal of warm bread and roasted fish for the apostles.
Consider that it’s been days, perhaps weeks, since the resurrected Jesus appeared to them twice in the upper room. Now Jesus appears to the apostles for a third time, this time on the shore of Lake Galilee. Peter and several others have “gone fishing”. What’s the matter with them, we might mistakenly judge? Why aren’t they out there proclaiming that Jesus is the Messiah, resurrected from the dead? What’s holding them back?
What their own eyes have seen, and ears have heard, their minds struggle to grasp. They are stuck! They have yet to receive the grace of the Holy Spirit, that holy fire about to come down upon them at Pentecost. So they fall back into a familiar, and safe place—out fishing, right where Jesus found them in the beginning.
“Children”, Jesus calls out, “have you caught any fish for breakfast?” They’ve not! A whole night’s fishing, wasted! On their own, without Jesus’ help, they have come up empty! “Put your nets over the right side of the boat”, Jesus directs, and their nets fill to the breaking point once again! “It is the Lord”, exclaims John, the beloved apostle, and Peter abandons the boat to swim to Jesus on the shore.
Peter— who swore that he would never allow Jesus to be taken by the authorities and crucified; Peter—who initially refused to allow Jesus to wash his feet; Peter—the one who denied Jesus three times; Peter—who refused to believe Mary Magdalene that the Lord had risen from the dead! Peter—about to be fed again by Jesus, before finally submitting completely to Jesus’ will on this sunny morn on the shores of Lake Galilee.
“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these? Feed my lambs.” “Simon, son of John, do you love me? Tend my sheep.” “Simon, son of John, do you love me? Feed my sheep.” “Yes Lord…now and always, I do love you”, Peter responds. “Then follow me, Peter, son of John…all the way, even unto your own crucifixion.” Set aside your ego once and for all and submit totally to my divine will. This will be proof of your love for me.
We know the rest of the story. Our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles attests to the determination of the apostles to proclaim Jesus as the Son of God, the longed-for Messiah, in the face of growing opposition and subsequent persecution. They will be beaten, imprisoned, threatened with death, ostracized from the temple, and ultimately martyred. And the church will grow, fed with the blood of others martyred and by the body and blood of Christ in the Holy Eucharist.
The Holy Eucharist is our heavenly food as well. It comforts us; it nourishes us; it strengthens us to go forth to proclaim that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. We join the centuries of other disciples who have preceded us in this mission. “Do you love me?” Jesus asks. We reply, “Yes, Lord, we do love you” as we are sent from here week after week to seek those who are lost and to care for God’s lambs and sheep.