Third Sunday of Easter
After these things, Jesus revealed Himself again. It seems to be a universal phenomenon that stretching ourselves to go beyond our normal comfort zones is the way we grow and expand the range of our lives. When we shoot for challenging goals, we discover knowledge about ourselves unavailable in settling for the minimum. The latter is like filling out a crossword with the answers right in front of you. Not much of a sense of accomplishment. The struggles and efforts of life are integral to the sense of fulfillment and realization that comes from having done our best. The depth and range of the experiences determine the enjoyment and satisfaction we will have. After these things. The experience comes first.
Unfortunately, not all experiences and commitments yield a sense of accomplishment and integration. We can spend months or years investing our energies towards realizing a goal and end up spinning our wheels or in utter frustration. Our commitments may feel more enslaving than liberating. Are they worth it? This is not what I expected. But that night they caught nothing. The temptation is to reframe our life and actions so that they are conditioned to respond to compensations and rewards. The esteem we get from others is a subtle reward (more than these others?) that can regulate our responses. Maybe our world becomes very small, but it is much more under our control. We organize our life to ward off threats to our vulnerabilities. I’m going fishing. We’ll go with you. We are making these choices and delighting in our autonomy. We will stick with the familiar, even if it simply reproduces itself ad nauseum. The price for autonomy may be a lonely and disengaged freedom.
Jesus revealed Himself. The Gospel of the Risen One inserts a new boundary, a new horizon, something worth living for. Jesus was standing on the shore, but the disciples did not realize it was Jesus. Everything about this scene manifests the way God works in our world. It is created by the free choice and initiative of the Lord who has overturned the laws which seem so inevitable and confining to those who live within the limits of reason and human effort. We have not earned the grace into which we are invited. When they climbed out on the shore, they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread. We are justified by grace and now invited as equals to share in the simple human experience of a breakfast meal. Jesus is our host. This is something beyond our reasonable expectations. But without the realization that it is Jesus who is speaking to us, we remain locked in our own small, boring worlds. We are offered a share in something of ultimate worth and are given a worth which frees us from the futile fabrication of one of our own.
The disciples rejoiced that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name. The esteem, worth, and honor that come from obedience to the goals and values that seem to rule our world can lose all persuasive power. The sense of worth, the realization of completion and wholeness are enough to join those two opposites of human thought: suffering and joy. Worthy is the Lamb that was slain. The obedient, innocent, defenseless Lamb who let himself be sacrificed for the life and sake of others is worthy of honor and power, is now at the center of cosmic and celestial adoration. All the world is called to realize who Jesus is, the Lamb exalted in heaven and at the same time the new creative center of human life. He is the host who serves us his banquet.
Our Gospel ends with Jesus asking Peter three times, Do you love me? The questions dig deep into Peter’s soul, down to the groundless sense of distress which moves him out of all complacency and certainty. Jesus exposes his own vulnerability to the free choice and love of those he serves, still the Lamb who offers himself for the sake of love. Those who follow him must know whom they follow. Do you realize what I have done for you? Follow me.