Friday in the Octave of Easter
Parents and teachers look for those golden opportunities of Teaching Moments. That’s when someone has let their guard down and becomes open to important information. They ask a question that begs for an answer. What worked before doesn’t work any more and they are at an impasse. Help would be appreciated. They are ready to listen and are open to something new. They can be children from age 5 to 65. When Jesus calls to the disciples in the boat, he calls them children. Is this belittling? Patronizing? Underlining their incompetence? Maybe it just means that they are beginners. To be a child is to be a beginner. And for a beginner, anything and everything is possible. They are not boxed in by what they already know.
One way of looking at the various apparitions of Jesus after his resurrection is to see them as teaching moments. This was the third time Jesus was revealed to them. They still did not recognize him. Children, have you caught anything to eat? No. The unadorned reply which said all they wanted to say. They had worked all night and caught nothing. A real bummer. They were worn out and disgusted at the waste of time. The time was empty, dark, futile and lonely. There must be a better time and place. Perhaps we can resonate. Maybe there are some dark pockets of fatigue, emptiness and hopelessness that we push out of center stage in our lives, but which are like black holes sucking out energy and life. Areas which we would like to change, but just can’t. There must be a better time and place, the subtle voice of acedia which despairs of finding live in what we are doing and living.
Cast your nets on the right side of the boat, on the other side. The other side may be unplumbed depths, repressed fears, weakness and shame, the shadow of unlived experience submerged in our soul. It is right there. It is not a question of finding a better place and time (the typical first response to the pains of acedia). Salvation will come in responding to a word addressed to us, in hearing and obeying that word. Faith is performative: we know it in doing what it asks of us, not in thinking or theologizing about it. It is the task (and mission) that we are given. Maybe there is no reason for our doing it than the fact that we have been asked. I did it because you told me to. I did it because you asked me. That’s enough. The Word can be that direct and immediate.
Although the charcoal fire, fish and bread are already in place on the shore, Jesus tells us to bring some of the fish we have caught. God is the host here, and has prepared a banquet for those entering the new kingdom (where we are always beginners). An unexpected order, preparation, hospitality and care are spread out, but it is not complete without what we bring. It is now Jesus (not Peter) who says I am going fishing. We can all say: I will come with you.