Posted by: jevcat | April 18, 2010

Easter II

I smiled when I saw that this morning’s Gospel lesson was John 21:1-19, not just because the lesson is familiar and both comforting and unsettling, in about equal measure, but because years ago my mother had written a meditation on the same passage. 

It’s one of the post-resurrection appearances.  The disciples have been through the emotional rollercoaster from Palm Sunday through Good Friday and the thoroughly confusing message of Easter.  It came, after all, from women:  “The Lord is risen!” – but who listens to women?  They didn’t count legally as witnesses.  But there were others who saw him.  It’s just all too much for the disciples, and what does Simon Peter say?  “I’m going fishing.”  And the others, just as lost, say, “We’ll go with you.”  So, Mom pointed out, they go back to the one thing they know, the one thing they’re sure of:  fishing.  It’s what they did before, what they’d expected to do the rest of their lives.  That’s stayed with me, even though the other details of what Mom wrote are gone from my memory.

And I’ve been thinking of that all today.  In a time when all was upheaval, they went back to the reassuringly familiar.  It’s what I want to do:  have a job to work at again, do what I’ve always done, have my life feel like a comfortable old shoe, where I know what’s coming, what to expect, where next month’s rent is coming from.

Maybe they thought once they got out on the water, all would be clear again; maybe that’s why I spent so much time walking on the shore Easter week.  But what happens when they go fishing?  Nothing – pretty much literally.  They didn’t catch any fish; the nets came up empty.  They went back to the old, the familiar, the comforting – what they thought they knew – and it didn’t work anymore.  Now what?  There’s nothing to be done.  They must’ve been exhausted.  They head back to shore.

So maybe that’s my problem, too:  I’ve been trying to go back to what I used to do, stick with what I know, what’s always worked before. 

But there’s someone standing on the shore, and he calls out to them, “Children, you have no fish, have you?”  Oh great, that’s the last thing any of us need:  a kibitzer.  Or someone who’s going to make fun of our coming up empty – and we all come up empty sometimes, and there’s always someone happy to point it out to us. 

Then the guy on the beach tells them to cast their nets one more time, to the right side of the boat – there’s always someone who thinks they know better.  Why do the disciples do it?  I don’t know – I’m not sure I would’ve, but for some reason they do – and haul the net up (or try to) full of fish.  And for John, younger and quicker than the others, the penny drops:  “It is the Lord!”  And hot-headed Peter leaps into the water (possibly smacking his forehead and going “Duh” first), leaving the rest of them to try to drag the fish in (I wouldn’t’ve been too happy with Peter just then, Jesus or no Jesus), splashing in ahead of them to run up to Jesus – who, it turns out, has a breakfast of bread and grilled fish waiting for them (me, I’d appreciate the thought, but the idea of fish for breakfast has, as they say, a negative impact on my appetite). 

Is that the missing piece for me?  Have I been looking for answers in the wrong places?  Not seeing what’s in front of me?  Not willing to try something new?  Or just not asking for help in the right places?  (or maybe “all of the above”?).

Then it gets more unsettling:  the three-fold question, “Simon Bar Jonah [even in those days, I guess you knew you were in trouble when your full name was used], do you love me?” and Peter’s ever-more frantic “yes”, followed by the repeated response of instructions to “feed/tend my sheep/lambs” – and the added information that it’s not going to be easy, and Peter’s not going to have things all his own way.  I’m learning about that part.

And the last words in today’s Gospel:  “Follow me”.  I’m working on it.


  1. Absolutely true and so beautifully expressed. Thank you.

    • Thanks, Joan. I wondered after if I was being narcissistic or too much of a cry-baby about personal issues, so your words make me feel better 🙂

  2. Similar personal issues and kvetches from me, too. I also keep asking myself, “What am I doing wrong? What am I failing to do that would be better?” These have always been tough questions. Trying to keep paddling my own little boat, day by day, and remind myself that G-d’s hands are good, strong, gentle and loving hands to be in. They’re holding my little boat (and me with it) and guiding me toward safe harbor, even if I’m not yet sure where that will be. You’re being guided toward your safe harbor, too. I know you know that, even if it’s frequently hard to believe.

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