Today is Friday. For most Catholics during Lent that means no meat today. It also means I’ll be working the fish fry at church, something we’re doing this year to foster a new source of fundraising, fellowship and, of course, the Church’s directive to abstain from meat on Fridays. So it was interesting for me this morning to read a passage from John 21, which centers around fish.
I’m not a theologian when it comes to interpreting biblical context of Scripture. Case in point, the passage from John 21, beginning at verse “3.” Now, I’ve read and heard this passage numerous times, but it wasn’t until today that the context of the passage was enlightened for me.
You see, Simon Peter decided to go fishing—this is the passage where he and other disciples fished all night but caught nothing. That is, till Jesus appeared and told them where to fish. Then…excuse the pun, they caught boatloads.
But here’s the thing—and it makes all the difference in understanding these verses—Jesus had already been crucified and risen at the time he appeared to the disciples, in this instance while they fished. Peter and the others had already been tapped by Christ to become “fishers of men.” Yet what had they done only days after Jesus had risen from the dead? They went back to what was known and comfortable. They went back to fishing for fish and not for souls.
So when Jesus asks “Peter…do you love Me?” he is gently asking Peter to come back to Him, to the call He tasked him with.
It takes three times Christ asking Peter “Do you love Me?” before Peter gets it, each time Jesus commanding “Feed My lambs…Feed My Sheep.” Each time, calling Peter back into service, even though he had shown initial failure to do so, even though he had been asked by Jesus in life to do so.
None of us has the opportunity that Peter had—to know Christ in the flesh and be asked by Him to do Him service. In comparison we are without the opportunity presented to Peter, that of knowing Jesus in human form, which could certainly make a big impression on what He asks. Yet the message, even now, is the same for us. Serve.
No matter how many times I have not heeded His call, the context of the gospel here gives me a stronger foundation for realizing that our service isn’t required to be perfect or even consistent for God to gently call us back into service when we veer from the path of our journey. Peter’s experience proves that!
I’ll need to remember tonight that, while we are serving fish, we are really continuing to answer the call given to Peter to cast a wider net, serving where and how God directs us.
Even though the Fridays of Lent are “meatless,” the Lamb is in our presence.