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Reflections on the Sunday readings

Going Fishing

Acts 9:1-6, (7-20)  •  Psalm 30  •  Revelation 5:11-14  •  John 21:1-19

 

The long gospel reading begins with Peter's announcement: I'm going fishing. All six of the other disciples gathered that night decided to follow him, and out they went. Fishing, after all, was what they were doing when Jesus first called them, back in the day. Now Jesus was gone, but they still knew how to fish. All night long they labored, catching nothing, presumably becoming increasingly despondent and frustrated, when someone on shore asks them if they've caught anything good to eat. With his coaching, they drop their nets in a different spot, catching plenty, and someone recognizes that it's Jesus who is talking to them.

 

Many beautiful moments in life begin with recognition, whether it's picking out a loved one at a crowded airport or finding the open arms of a child who has recognized you. What is more difficult is to recognize what one is supposed to do every day, or with the rest of one's life, as it is more comfortable to keep doing what one already knows how to do. As the story continues, Jesus and Peter take a walk, where conversations on important subjects often seem to happen.

 

Jesus may have selected Peter for this walk after considering his leadership qualities, which boiled down to a simple ability to decide to do something, even if it was only going fishing. Whatever the reasoning, Jesus' method in their conversation seems to be something along the lines of an if-then sequence. If you love me, then feed my sheep. Jesus does not begin with an analysis of Peter's personality traits, nor an assessment of his gifts and talents, as part of the discernment process. Jesus begins by asking Peter to clarify what's important to him, taking time to establish that he – Jesus and what Jesus stood for – matters more than anything else. Once this is established, Jesus gives commands rather than asking more questions, telling Peter to feed and tend to his sheep.

 

In a sense, what he is telling Peter to do is an expansion of the fisherman's role. Once again, the story has returned to food, although this time it is the sustaining bread of life that Peter is to work to provide. With this new vision, Peter and the other disciples can begin to think through next steps for their work. The vision begins with clarifying what is important to oneself, which provides the energy for the work ahead. Recognizing and working from one's principles creates joy in living.

 

This week's reflection:

Psalm 30:11 You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.

Morning reflection: What are my operating principles? How can I live into my principles in the day ahead? Where might doing what I've always done get in the way?  

Evening reflection: Where was the joy in my day?

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