First Reading: Acts 5:27-32, [33-39], 40-41
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 30: 2, 4-6, 11-13
Second Reading: Revelation 5:11-14
Gospel: John 21:1-19
I’m always curious about the passages in scripture that are left out in the lectionary reading. In today’s first reading the lectionary jumps from what Peter and the apostles tell the high priest and council to “They were convinced by him.” We read the passage in its entirety.
What the omitted part shows is that rather than being convinced by Peter, they were enraged. It was one of the Pharisees of the council, Gamaliel, who convinced the crowd not to kill Peter and the apostles. Omitting the passage also omits important lessons. The first of course is that we shouldn’t rush to judgement as the crowd and council did in their rush to kill the Apostles. Nor should we rush to judge all the Pharisees. We should resist the urge to judge others to quickly because as any Catholic Worker would say, “you may be entertaining angels without knowing it.”
The second lesson is to be aware that when we hear a scripture passage that has been shortened by taking something out of the middle; it may present an inaccurate picture of biblical message. For example, the omission leads the reader to think the council had been immediately convinced of the truth of what the Apostles were saying. It may also leave the reader wondering: If the Apostles proved their case, why were they flogged? It presents the Pharisees unjustly, in this case, in a bad light. Further, it misses the point of the passage, which is that whatever is being done according to God’s will, will endure. Conversely, the attempt to falsely claim something is God’s will and/or to prevent someone from doing the will of God is ultimately doomed to fail.
The last lesson from the first reading is an example of a both/and truth. Peter says “The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree.” This outrages the crowd who wants to kill the disciples. And so opposition is set up. Then one of the opposing team, Gamaliel, the Pharisee, says, “If this plan or this undertaking is of human origin, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them.” Here we are, over 2000 years later, celebrating the season of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. So truth came from opposing sides because both Peter and Gamaliel spoke the truth.
We are celebrating because of the apostles and their successors showed their love for Jesus as an action plan. Today’s gospel is about that action plan. Jesus doesn’t just ask us to be perfect or to do the impossible; He meets us where we are and equips us first. Peter is asked to tend Jesus’ lambs, and to shepherd and feed his sheep.
Jesus goes down to the Sea of Tiberias, where he knows the apostles will be fishing. They’ve been fishing all night and haven’t caught any fish. Jesus came to where the apostles were and assessed their need. He addressed them as his “Children”, his “lambs” and then guided them to abundant food. Feed my lambs! We are Peter, we are being asked to listen to people’s needs─ spiritual and physical, including our own. We are being asked to be with people where they are, assess their needs─ not make assumptions─ but to check-in with them. ‘Children, you have no fish, have you?’ Just as Jesus provided abundance, we are to share our gifts abundantly and to guide others, especially our young people, in developing their talents and gifts.
John tells us that Jesus asks the disciples to bring some of their fish over to the fire. When they finally get their catch onshore, Jesus has breakfast waiting and shares it with them. He waits until they have been fed before making any requests of Peter. Tend my sheep! The Greek word used here, ποιμαινε, pee-mah-ne, means “to tend” but it also means “to shepherd” or “herd”. We are Peter. We are being asked tend and shepherd each other. Now to shepherd doesn’t mean to “crack the whip” but rather to guide gently. Jesus invites us to shepherd, to guide by invitation rather than command. Jesus guided the disciples, not only to fish but more importantly, he guided them to recognizing him. They didn’t all do this at once; the beloved disciple recognized him first and then told Peter. So too we are invited to guide each other in recognition of the Word of God, active in our lives with gentleness and patience. We don’t all come to recognition of God’s work at the same time or at the same time in our lives.
We are Peter because Jesus didn’t pick a model of perfection to care for his people. In the early church and for those who have gone through RCIA, the time between Easter and Pentecost is called mystagogia. In this period of ongoing conversion we are invited to our love for Christ by living our lives as something radically transformed through Christ Jesus. For the new members of the faith, this period is the final stage for the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults. For us, during this period of mystagogia, we are invited to deepen our understandings of our Christian faith. This period is a time, when like Peter, we are being invited to transform, not into something new, but return to our true selves─ to our innate goodness of our Loving God’s creation.
Lastly, we are Peter because it is us that Jesus is asking feed each other, especially our young, through and with Himself, the Eternal Word of God, who is alive in scripture, in sacrament and each of us. Amen Alleluia!
What are your thoughts? Please share.