The WORD in Other Words by Fr Antonio Pernia SVD (Philippines)
3rd Sunday Easter
Acts 5:27-32, 40b-41
John 21:1-19 or 21:1-14
It was Easter Sunday, the day of the Resurrection. But for Peter and the disciples it was like an extension of Good Friday, the day of the death of Jesus on the Cross. Peter and the disciples were discouraged and disappointed. Their dreams were shattered, their hopes crushed. Their master had died an ignominious death on the cross. After all there was nothing to the great dreams of their teacher. Everything had failed. It was all finished. And so, they were going fishing, turning back to their former way of life. They had given up on their master.
And then a stranger entered their lives. An unknown bystander on the shore by the Sea of Tiberias. And they let him into their lives, answering his questions and responding to his suggestion to cast their net on the “other” side of the boat.” So they cast their net, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish.”
And then they recognized the master. They saw the “other” face of Christ—not the familiar face of the earthly Jesus, but the unfamiliar face of the risen Lord. And everything changed, a turn—around from being fishermen to being fishers of people, from the labor of fishing to the mission of witnessing to the resurrection, from timid and fearful disciples to courageous and committed apostles of the Gospel, as the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles narrates it.
The message of the Resurrection is that Jesus never gives up on his disciples. Despite their denial, betrayal and abandonment, Jesus returns to them and takes them back again. He calls them a second time and restores them to their status as disciples. The transformation wrought by the Resurrection was not just a reality for Jesus, but for the disciples as well. Like Jesus, they too had risen from the dead — from discouragement and disappointment to new hope and excitement at the mission of witnessing to the Risen Lord.
This is true as well for us, today‘s disciples of Jesus. Despite our unfaithfulness and sinfulness, Jesus never gives up on us. He calls us, not just once, but a second time, a third time, several times, all the time. And often his call comes to us through the stranger. It is interesting to note that the Risen Lord is often mistaken as a stranger—as the gardener by the tomb, as the stranger on the road to Emmaus, as a bystander by the Sea of Tiberias. For, indeed, with the stranger lies surprise, new possibility, contact with that part of God and of reality that we have never experienced before. That‘s why the stranger leads us to experience the newness of the Resurrection. May Easter teach us to welcome and offer hospitality to the stranger.