Friday, April 14, 2023

Breakfast with the Risen Lord


Modern pilgrims can quickly sense the contrast between the dry, dusty desert of Judea (where Jerusalem is) and the relatively lush, green of Galilee (where today’s Gospel [John 21:1-1-4] is set). Renewed annually by winter’s life-giving rains, the land around the Sea of Galilee is at its greenest in spring. And so, it was to that place at this season of the year, that Peter and six other disciples returned. It had been from those familiar shores that Jesus had originally called them to follow him. Now they’d come home – back to what they knew best. They went fishing.

But this was to be no normal fishing expedition!

There’s a lovely little church on the shore that marks the supposed site of this event. In front of the altar is a rock, traditionally venerated as the stone on which the risen Lord served his disciples a breakfast of bread and fish. Staples of the Galilean diet, bread and fish seem to be staples of the Gospel story itself! Just a short walk away is another church, marking the site where Jesus had (not so long before) fed 5000+ people with five loaves and a few fish. Presumably, the disciples would have well remembered that earlier meal. Surely, we should as well, as we also assemble here at the table lovingly set for us by the risen Lord himself, here in this church. As surely as on that distant lakeshore, he feeds us with food we would never have gotten on our own.

Typically, in these stories of the risen Lord’s appearances to his disciples, there is the sense that, while this is certainly the same Jesus the disciples had followed in life and who had died on the Cross, something about him is now different. Hence, the dramatic moment when Jesus is recognized, as when the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” But recognizing the risen Christ is not the end of the story. It is but the beginning of a life lived in love, in a community of love. We learn that love by following the risen Lord. Peter leads the way, dressing up for the occasion, jumping into the sea and swimming to Jesus ahead of the others. As his role requires, Peter here is already leading his flock, leading here by example. His example illustrates for the rest of us what it means, first, to recognize the risen Lord, and then actually to follow him.

Homily for Easter Friday, Saint Paul the Apostle Church, New York, April 14, 2023.

Photo: Paschal Candle, Saint Mary's Old Cathedral, San Francisco

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