Season of Joy
Today's Season of Joy reflection on John 21:1-14 is by Sr. Leslie Keener, CDP.
Sister Leslie is a Sister of Divine Providence of Kentucky and the director of God Space, a community-building spirituality ministry in Cincinnati. She’s a spiritual director and serves as the vocation director for her community as well. She also hosts the Providence Podcast and offers retreats and prayer opportunities.
We Can’t Stay on the Seashore
From John 21:1-14
Jesus revealed himself again to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias.
He revealed himself in this way...
When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore;
but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
Jesus said to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?”
They answered him, “No.”So he said to them, “
Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something...”
To read the full scripture passage, please visit: https://bible.usccb.org/bible/
The Gospel for today from John finds us with Peter and some of the others on a seashore after a long night of fishing but catching nothing. Does this feel like déjà vu? Well, we have been here before, but it’s in the Gospel of Luke. That lakeshore, after a long night of unsuccessful fishing, is where Jesus first catches Peter’s attention. Like this story from John, Jesus tells him to cast out the net again, and, like this story, Peter catches an abundance fish. Despite his great success, Peter decides at that very moment to leave everything, including that great catch, and follow the one who called him. He becomes a fisher of people and no longer a fisher of fish.
And yet, here he is again at the seashore doing the exact same thing. It’s like nothing has changed. Except everything has changed.
A cosmic shift has taken place, and Peter is trying to go back and pick up his life as if nothing happened. But Peter is not the same person who followed the advice of Jesus in that first encounter. Since then, he’s experienced terrible suffering, but he’s also seen the glory of God. He may have had the ordinary experience of breakfast with Jesus every day when he traveled with him, but he also witnessed Jesus healing people, casting out demons, and calming the sea. He felt Jesus remove his sandals and tenderly wash his feet, and he’s been to the mountaintop to see Jesus transfigured. After everything, how could he be the same?
Breakfast by this seashore with the resurrected Christ may feel beautifully familiar, but Peter is going to have to recognize that his life has changed. Jesus called him to fish for people, and it’s time to follow his call and stop clinging to the past.
And he does follow that call. As we see in our first reading from Acts of the Apostles, he takes up the mantle of leadership and becomes a surprisingly eloquent preacher. It may have been easier to keep returning to his old life, the familiar, the comfortable, but he lets go of that and moves forward to share the Good News.
Even though Peter seems slow in following Christ’s call, I do feel for him. For me, too, the familiar and comfortable have a sort of appeal to them, particularly during hard times or times of transition. And yet, God hardly ever calls me to do what’s easy and comfortable. God usually calls me to go out on a limb, to reach farther, to grow. God’s call often feels risky. Sometimes it is risky.
And that’s what Gospel living is. Just when we get used to something, God calls us to something more – to love more deeply, to move toward an encounter with someone I don’t know, to adjust my attitude to embrace someone I may have judged before. God loves in giant, abundant, and expansive ways, and if I’m to love like God does, I’m going to have to stretch. That’s uncomfortable sometimes, but also deeply satisfying and energizing, as only a call from God can be.
Here we are in this Easter season, these fifty days of resurrection that may not feel dazzling every single day. We still need to earn a living, take care of loved ones, do the dishes, mow the grass. We live in the ordinary, but that doesn’t mean we have to cling to what’s familiar. Let’s stay open so that we keep growing. We, like Peter, are called to keep sharing the good news of God’s abundant love, to extend the reach of God’s love. When we say yes to Christ’s call, whatever that might look like for each of us, it may feel uncomfortable at first. That’s okay. Christ, the one who calls us, is with us.
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