Homily for May 13th, 2016: John 21:15-19.
It is after Easter. Peter and his friends have gone back to fishing. All night, they catch nothing. At dawn a man on the shore whom they don’t recognize calls out: “Cast your net on the starboard side.” They do so and feel the net heavy with fish. The disciple always identified in John’s gospel as “the one Jesus loved” calls out: “It is the Lord!” They hurry ashore with their rich catch and find Jesus standing by a fire. He has made breakfast for them.
After they have eaten, Jesus asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” Each time Peter assures the Lord that he does. “Peter was distressed,” we heard in the gospel when Jesus asked the question the third time. Of course he was distressed. Jesus= thrice repeated question reminded Peter of his own threefold denial of the Lord by another fire, in Jerusalem, the night before Jesus’ crucifixion.
In response to each pledge of love, Jesus assigns Peter responsibility: to feed Jesus= sheep. It is noteworthy, however, that the flock entrusted to Peter=s care remains the Lord=s: Amy lambs ... my sheep.@ Jesus himself is Athe chief shepherd.@ (cf. 1 Peter (5:4).
Why did Jesus give this responsibility to Peter, of all people? As long as Peter thought that he was strong; as long as he could boast that though all others might desert Jesus, he would remain faithful, Peter was not ready for leadership. For that Peter had to experience his weakness. He had to become convinced that without a power greater than his own, he could do nothing. One way he learned his weakness was through his failure at fishing.
Do you sometimes feel weak? You have made so many good resolutions. Some you have kept, others not. You have high ideals. How often you have compromised. You had so many dreams, hopes, plans. You wanted so much. You have settled for so little. If that is your story, you have a friend in heaven. His name is Simon Peter.
If Peter=s story is yours C boasting followed by humiliating failure; impetuosity and then indecisiveness; pledges of loyalty no matter what, and then swift betrayal C if you see any of that in your life, or even all of that, then Jesus has a task for you. He is saying to you right now what he said to Peter: AFollow me.@ He doesn’t ask you to be always strong, for he knows your weakness -- better than you do. He asks you one thing only: to trust him. His strength will always be enough. You have only to ask, and Jesus is there.