I’m always piqued by the gospel for this Third Sunday of Easter. In my mind, I think of it as the gospel of the Fish Fry. Here we find that the disciples have returned to Galilee in the aftermath of the Resurrection. We find them fishing. Perhaps they were looking for something to do while they processed the events of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus? Perhaps they were completely uncertain about their future and so did as we might all do… they returned to what they knew. Fishing.
Going back to a former way of living in the face of upheaval and perhaps even perceived failure, is a very understandable reaction. From the outside, we might encourage something different, but a return to comfort and security is understandable. From the outside, looking in, we might hope for growth into a future of the as-yet unknown, but stepping into a potential life that can seem so tenuous and obscure is difficult, even for the best of people.
In today’s gospel, Peter and his companions have returned to what they know… They go back to a life of fishing. But then comes the Risen Jesus to greet them once again. They don’t recognize him at first. They struggle to see him as he really is. His casual manner, standing on the shore and enquiring as to whether or not the fishing is good, doesn’t really help them to recognize who he is or what he is about. It’s not until he suggests they try the other side of the boat that they experience this miraculous, ridiculously abundant catch.
The experience catapults the disciples into action as they recognize Jesus: “It is the Lord!” The proverbial wheels come off the wagon as Peter launches himself from the security of the familiar and he plunges - fully clothed - into the water, swimming for shore and the fulfilment of his hopes and dreams.
We find ourselves now, at this time of year here at Lourdes, in the throes of what we refer to as “sacrament season.” It is that time of year between Easter and Pentecost when we happily celebrate baptisms, first communions and confirmations. At Easter Vigil we witnessed four of our number enter the watery tomb of the font to emerge baptized into new life in Christ. We looked on as Bishop Wilkerson anointed those four along with an additional seven in Confirmation. We were joined by some who shared Eucharist with us for the first time. A week later, last Sunday, we had thirty-six young people share communion with us for the first time, and over the next few weeks we will see a total of over eighty first communions. In two weeks we will also see about fifty of our parishioners confirmed. These are pivotal moments in the faith-life of our community, both for the individuals concerned as well as for the entire parish. The efforts of our family members and of parishioners - parents, grandparents, sponsors, and so on - along with the grace of God unfolding in the lives of these men and women, many of them young, all bring them to celebrate sacrament with us. We have all made similar journeys, and so we all share in the joy and the possibility, the grace and the potential for what God’s grace may bring into the future.
We also understand, however, because of our own experience, that sometimes the sharing in a sacrament is seen as the fulfilment of something, or the conclusion of something. Two years preparing for Confirmation, and then we’re “graduated!” In a sense, our celebration of Easter, or our celebration of a significant sacramental “milestone” in life can all too easily become an occasion to simply “return” to the way things were, as though nothing has changed, nothing is different.
Our sacraments are occasions of encounter with the living Christ, and he stands on the shore inviting us to something new and life-giving. Whether we remain as we were, or whether we respond to his invitation to a fuller experience of life and all its potential is our own choice. We can look on at the “miracles” of abundance that unfold around us in life, or we can choose to engage and see what plans the Lord God has in store for us. If we choose to follow Christ more fully, He will feed us, nourish us and sustain us. Of this we are certain. Perhaps we might pray for courage, for ourselves and for those around us… that, like Peter, we might all come to enjoy the fruits of plunging into the future God prepares for us...