May 5, 2019
Third Sunday of Easter, C
Today’s Gospel passage also tells of an appearance of the Lord to His disciples, after His resurrection. We are in Chapter 21 of the Gospel according to John, and the evangelist states that this is the third time that Jesus reveals Himself (John 21:14).
This is the fact on which we pause briefly, the fact that Jesus reveals Himself several times, not only once.
Jesus comes, and then returns, and each time reveals Himself. It is no coincidence that the passage begins by saying that Jesus reveals Himself “again” (Jn 21:1), because every time Jesus comes, every time the Lord shows Himself in our lives, actually it is always something new that happens, something that presents itself. Every encounter with the Lord is never the same as that experienced before, and for this reason, it’s necessary to be attentive and vigilant, ready to receive the ever new manifestation of the Lord.
If this is true, then the question arises: how do we recognize it? On what condition does His passage become an encounter a new principle for our life?
Today’s passage offers some elements in this regard.
The first comes from the experience of his absence: we recognize the Lord when we acknowledge that without Him we can do nothing.
The disciples go fishing, but “that night they caught nothing” (Jn 21:3), and this is no accident, it’s not only a particularly unfortunate night. It is a question that concerns us much more deeply, that tells the truth of our life: if we are not united to Him, if He is not present in our life, we can only experience nothingness, emptiness; without Him, we do not have anything to eat (Jn 21:5).
So, the Lord reveals himself right there. And reveals Himself with a promise of life: “Throw the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find.” The Risen One is the only one who can make and keep a promise of full, abundant life, precisely because he is the Risen One because He has defeated death. Many can promise life, but only the Risen One can give it.
And the disciples make this experience, and starting from this experience they recognize Him: “It is the Lord” (Jn 21:7).
There is a further element to highlight, a factor that unites this passage with the other appearances of the Risen One recounted in the Gospels. Every time Jesus appears, there is always a word, or a gesture that opens the heart of the disciples, unbelieving, or doubtful or simply still unable to recognize Him.
There is something familiar, which touches the heart, which triggers a memory, which opens the eyes.
For Mary of Magdala, it is her very name, pronounced by Jesus in such a way that Mary immediately recognizes the Master (Jn 20:16). For the disciples of Emmaus, it is the gesture of breaking bread (Lk 24:31), also here, a familiar gesture, a friend, that Jesus had made several times with them. In today’s Gospel, it is again this eating together (21:12), this being at the table with Him: it is in this gesture that the disciples are yet able to see the Lord.
The second part of today’s Gospel concerns Jesus’ personal encounter with Peter (Jn 21:15-19). In the new manifestation of the Lord there coincides a new call for Peter.
Actually, in the Gospel of John, it is only here that Jesus invites Peter to follow him; Jesus went through Easter, and Peter experienced his sin, his total inability to keep every promise to the Lord.
Now he knows that only the Lord keeps His promise of life and that to follow Him will be nothing but flinging himself at Him, as in today’s Gospel he threw himself into the sea (Jn 21:7). We could say that it is a little symbolic of Peter’s baptism, his choice to follow the Lord only by a profound union with His death and resurrection.