August 12, 2022
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Following Him

Following Him

The pages of the Gospels are designed to bring us comfort and enlighten our path to the Kingdom of God, because our life unfolds in the wake of the total transformation offered to all those who believe in the Resurrection. Yet, the page for this Third Sunday of Easter (John 21: 1-19) is one particularly rich in light, comfort and encouragement as it resonates with what we might live through ourselves.

A first resonance: whenever we feel isolated, confused and defeated, we ought to look for a special presence, the presence of the Risen Lord. In the midst of very trying times, if we do not feel the presence of the Lord, it would be useless to fill our days with frantic activities: we would still “catch nothing.” We should not forget that the Risen Lord meets us exactly wherever we are at our low ebb. Hence, this consciousness of the Risen Lord’s presence should become as natural to us as breathing.

Without Christ we can do absolutely nothing (cf. John 15:5); but with Christ all things are possible (cf. Matthew 19:26). It should be as simple as that; yet, it is so easy to forget whenever our heart is heavy with grief and/or worries.

A second resonance is found in the insights that love generates. The purer our love for Jesus, the easier it would be to read the signs and the messages which his presence scatters around.

So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad, and jumped into the sea. (John 21:7)

A third resonance: even though without Christ we can do nothing, the Lord appreciates our generous contribution.  

Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you just caught.” (John 21:10)

Every single Holy Mass, calls for something seemingly insignificant, but which is indispensible for the validity of the Eucharistic Sacrifice. As he pours a few drops of water in the chalice that will hold the Blood of Christ, the priest (or deacon) says: “By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.”

In the chalice, the divinity of Christ is mingled with and inseparable from the water of our humanity. Those drops are like some of the fish those seven disciples caught following the suggestion from the Stranger standing on the lakeshore. They symbolize our toils, our sacrifices, our acts of love, our little victories over selfishness and anything else that we are willing to give to our Lord.

A fourth resonance: invariably, the Risen Lord becomes very personal; he calls us by name; he stoops down to our humble condition and, patiently, waits for us to be ready to soar to a higher level of loving. This nuance, evident in the original Greek text of the dialogue between Jesus and Simon Peter, has to be expressed by an English circumlocution.

This is how the dialogue develops keeping that subtle distinction in mind. 

Jesus: “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these with the sublime type of love that I deserve as your Lord?”

Peter: “Truly, Lord, you know that I love you with all the imperfect love that wretched me can muster.”

Jesus: “Simon, son of John, do you love me with the sublime type of love that I deserve as your Lord?”

Peter: “Truly, Lord, you know that I love you with all the imperfect love that wretched me can muster.”

The third time is different.

Jesus: “Simon, son of John, do you love with all the imperfect love that wretched you can muster?”

Peter is deeply distressed for he realizes that all those miseries and poor choices and mistakes and sins that he was trying to hide are all completely exposed to the gaze of Christ.

Peter: “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you the way a wretched, sinful, miserable, imperfect human being can love you.”

This is the only truly liberating attitude to have always, around the clock; but especially whenever we seek Jesus’ forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. 

Let us all face it: we do not know ourselves nearly as well as Jesus knows us. We do not know the extent of our freedom at any given time. Hence, a most liberating way is to repeat what Simon Peter told Jesus, trust in his infinite mercy and move on to bear the fruits of the Spirit (cf. Galatians 5:22).

A fifth resonance: the sincerity of our imperfect love for Christ tempered by the humble acknowledgement of our sinfulness and past mistakes makes us more understanding in feeding, in loving and in serving  those entrusted to our care.

A “perfect” Simon Peter would do a lousy job as shepherd. Those among us who are aware of their sinfulness and past mistakes are better equipped to offer their people the solid assurance of Christ’s boundless mercy.

A final resonance: we shall follow Jesus no matter what.

Once our love is as sincere and as generous as it is humanly possible, we should arm ourselves with enough courage and enough trust in the love of the Risen Lord for us that we follow him wherever he leads us, even against our will, even whenever we will be thoroughly frightened by what lies ahead.

May all of us, like St. Peter heed trustingly the Lord’s command: “Follow me” 

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Written by
Fr Dino Vanin