Homily for Easter 3C

In Uncategorized on April 19, 2010 at 8:53 am

Fishermen have a tendency to tell stories.
Not to be inaccurate, mind you – but to embellish the truth.

There’s bound to be a story to tell, even when there’s a distinct lack of fish.

Today we have a gospel fishing story.

We have a story of the Risen Christ
which at first sight appears to have been added as an afterthought.

The Gospel of John should have ended last week.
The Risen Christ standing among his disciples,
overcoming Thomas’ doubt, breathing on them the Holy Spirit,
a final word spelling out the purpose of John’s Gospel.
Perfect.  A story with the climax at its end.

Instead, what we get is an epilogue.
And 153 fish.

Why, of all things fishy, 153?

I told you on Easter Day that John doesn’t include such details by accident.
Someone else told me that my predecessor would start sermons with a joke.

Speaking of numbers, could anyone tell me what’s this for/4?

(A large figure 4 is discovered)

Awful puns aside,
some say that 153 was the number perceived of all the fish species.

Some think you need to bear in mind these were fishermen,
and allow for a certain amount of exaggeration…
it might have been more like six fish and just grown in the re-telling.

Could it all be merely a red herring?

Some see it as seven times 20 plus 13, … significant numbers in biblical terms.
Could it be some sort of Da Vinci Cod?
Back to the story.
We find ourselves with seven of the disciples back in Galilee, fishing.
Here are these people who would never be the same again, … erm … fishing.
Fishermen, whom Jesus called,
fishermen who will be apostles,
somehow called back to Galilee, where it all began, fishing.

As the day breaks on the disciples after a long night’s futile effort,
as the waves break on the lake shore,
so too does the Risen Christ.

Just like Mary in the Garden, and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus,
the disciples do not recognise the Lord.
It is only when they follow his directions, lower the net
and discover the miraculous abundance that’s eluded them all night,
only then that Peter and the Beloved Disciple sense who it is who is before them.
And Peter, eager as always to demonstrate his love for the Lord,
leaps overboard and heads for the shore.

Peter, so ready to declare his loyalty to Jesus on Maundy Thursday.
Quick to leap into the water this morning.
But Peter’s denial is part of the story of Holy Week, and the Easter story too.

Simon Peter, symbol of the disciples’ fear and failure,
brave, tenacious Peter who denied his Lord three times that dark, dark night,
is three times taken to the point where he must question
whether he is able to become whom Jesus has invited him to be.

Him and us.
We’re taken and we’re shaken,
we’re invited to turn our destruction of trust and of relationship
into a building up, a nurturing, a leading of God’s people:
“Feed my lambs.”     “Tend my sheep”.    “Feed my sheep”

And in all of this the recognition that the passion and tenacity of youth,
will in this after-Easter world
be shaped into a sacrifice born of the love Peter professes:
“when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands,
and someone else will fasten a belt around you
and take you where you do not wish to go.”

God knows life and love will do that for us.  Some of us sooner than later.

“Follow me” says Jesus, and the story comes full circle:
The disciples here, beside the lake, nets full of fish,
being asked to follow.

To suffer and to work in a world that is the same one
where they first heard Jesus’ voice,
but which will never be the same because of what they have experienced,
and what they have believed.

The image of fishing is one of the mission of the Church.
The disciples are commissioned to be fishers of people, apostles.
To take hold of what they have experienced, have received,
to really hear the good news of Christ, and to proclaim that,
to invite all people into that.

The final words of Jesus in John’s Gospel being the ones we heard this morning: “Follow me”.
The first and last words a disciple hears, and maybe, needs to hear.

In neither case the end of a story at all.


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