In the homily this morning, Fr William reminded us that we are still in the Octave of Easter which is meant to be a “prolonged” celebration of this great Solemnity. It is as if the Church is telling us that this great mystery that we celebrate is so great and profound that celebrating it in one day would be insufficient and we are called to savour the sweetness of Christ’s victory in these joyous days of Easter. Fr William invited us to return to the Church’s great Easter Vigil which is called the mother of all vigils that we just celebrated last Saturday night. He drew a beautiful parallel between the movements we see in the Gospel of today (John 21: 1 – 4) with the pattern of the Easter Vigil. The Easter Vigil starts off with everyone gathered in darkness and then the Liturgy of Light leading to the Liturgy of the Word then the Liturgy of Baptism and climaxing in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. He proposed that this is the movement of conversion and that we see this same pattern in the Gospel of today.
The apostles go our fishing in the night. The darkness around them is indicative of the darkness and disillusionment they face within. Amidst this darkness, everything seems futile and expectedly, they do not catch anything. Day only arises when the night is illuminated with the rising of the Morning Star, the true Sun that brightens all darkness, the Risen Jesus who is the Light of the world. As the Apostles become present to the Risen One, they begin to experience fruitfulness in their life again. Not only has day dawned but they also make a catch of fish in obedience to this mysterious man on the shore. Yet, it is a wonder that although day has dawned and this mysterious man on the shore has led them to a great catch, it is a wonder why the apostles are unable to recognise Jesus. It is common in the post-Resurrection Gospel narratives for the disciples to not recognise Jesus initially and numerous conjectures have been attempted, but Fr William proposed a rather interesting reflection for us this morning. In today’s Gospel, it is the beloved disciple whose eyes are receptive of the Risen One. It is the Beloved disciple who is able to recognise and exclaim with that loud proclamation of Faith, “It is the Lord!” Fr William suggested that this was only possible for the Beloved disciple because it was only he who had gazed upon the crucified One. It was only the Beloved who has stood at the foot of the cross and fully experienced the passion of Jesus and it was from the lens of the passion that the Beloved was now able to recognise the Risen One. The others had fled and their eyes were closed. Similarly, only when we are fully able to stand at the foot of the Cross which Jesus and gaze upon the “One whom they have pierced” will we be able to truly recognise the “One who is Risen”. This movement from darkness to light with the necessity of standing at the foot of the Cross is what we celebrate in the first movement of the Easter Vigil during the Liturgy of Light.
Then, we listen to the Word of God. Our faith comes through hearing and God sends us heralds of the Good News just like the Beloved Disciple was for Peter. God’s messengers bring the Word of Life to us and repeat to us, “It is the Lord!” and our eyes are opened once again just like Peter’s.
As Peter hears the Word of God (Liturgy of the Word) his response is to jump straight into the waters almost naked with all his vulnerabilities. Herein is the beautiful symbol of that immersion into the waters of Faith that we celebrate in the Liturgy of Baptism. Baptism is our response to God’s call in our life; it is a response to God’s Word that opens our eyes to a new day.
As Peter reaches the shore, he hears the Lord’s invitation to bring some of the fish he has caught but it is essential to note that the Risen Lord is the one who has prepared the meal. The meal is not our doing or our right or our creation, it is a gift, it is a banquet of Love and the Risen One is the host; we are the guests. Is this not the great Liturgy of the Eucharist, that mind-blowing meal of Love which Jesus, the Risen One invites us to and prepares for us. At this meal, though we are guests; we do not come empty handed, we bring to him the fruits of our labour or maybe even the lack of it. For we bring ourselves and all that we hold within us as gift to the banquet of Love. Even when Peter and the other Apostles brought their fish to the Lord, there is no credit they can claim for themselves for even the fish were the fruits of obedience but nevertheless, they are reminders of their co-operation and need of Jesus in their life. I am sure that each time their eyes reached those fish that they caught roasting on the fire prepared by the Lord, they would not think to themselves as some of us might, “Oh, look at my catch!” but rather, “Oh, how magnificent is the Lord whose Word brought about this catch!” Indeed, even those fish would remind them of the words of the Beloved Disciple, “It is the Lord!”
I am reminded of the beautiful words from the mouth of Peter in the First Reading of today that also aptly summarises the radical transformation in Peter, the once cowardly Peter now publicly declares whilst he is on trial for curing the crippled man sitting at the Temple gate, “it was by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the one you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by this name and by no other that this man is able to stand up perfectly healthy.” These new mighty works that Peter and the rest of the Apostles were doing was the new “fish” that they were catching in obedience to the Word of the Lord in their life. Jesus had become the Word of Life in the life and they were courageous in communicating Him. And even amidst all odds, they were unwavering in declaring, “It is the Lord!”
Will we be able to do the same? If we do, then, our declaration would be none other than, “It is the Lord!”