Dear Believers in the Risen Christ,
In our liturgy today in this Easter season we listen to John 21:1-19. Jesus reveals his very self at the seashore amid the meal that is shared. We are back with the disciples who are fishing and trying to make a living. Jesus is among them and invites them to cast a net from the other side of the boat. They catch one hundred fifty-three fish in their large net. They share breakfast. And then even more things are revealed.
Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” Of course Peter says that he does. Jesus does not stop with one asking. Not twice, but three times he says, “Do you love me?” Peter is getting a little annoyed because he knows that he denied Jesus three times. Now is his opportunity to be healed by Jesus.
However, the questions do not stop with only admitting love. Jesus then commands him, “Feed my lambs.” Peter is to invite the love he has for Jesus into reality. He is to live what he professes. Peter must be the model of service and fidelity. Peter must reveal within the lost, the forgotten and the lonely that the love of Jesus is real and inviting.
Jesus is calling Peter in a new depth of love and commitment. Jesus tells Peter that when he was young he used to dress and go where he pleased. Now, something new is happening. He must stretch out this hand and be lead by grace, by his call into service, justice and living the message of love for all people. He is now a servant. His discipleship must mature.
This gospel invites us into such a maturity of being a follower of Jesus. First of all, the meal is the place where we are not only fed, but where we learn how to receive the love of Jesus. For our meal today is his Real Presence. The Mass is our invitation to learn how to be loved and how to love. In this meal of Christ’s Body and Blood, we learn how to feed the sheep of Jesus and how to reach out to our fragile, our poor and our broken. We are to become what we eat, the Body of Christ in our world. Here is the depth of our commitments. This depth is seldom explored because we are reluctant to accept such a command from Jesus, “Do you love me? Then feed my sheep.”
Food brings us together. Food creates community. In fact, Aristotle said that friends should share a bag of salt together. This means that real friends should spend many meals together. The Mass is the same. God feeds us and we become Christ’s mission in the world precisely because Jesus is our friend. In this meal, we take to our hearts the very mission of feeding others because we are fed and nourished with love and tenderness.
As we continue this Easter season, let us take to heart that we are challenged by Jesus to be led and to lead. We listen with grace and tenderness to his words:
“Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”