Jesus in our blessedness, and sinfulness

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Third Sunday in Easter-C, 01 May 2022
Acts 5:27-32, 40-41 ><]]]]'> Revelation 5:11-14 ><]]]]'> John 21:1-19
Photo by author, sunrise at the Lake of Tiberias, Israel, 2017.

This is the last Sunday in this Easter Season when we shall hear a story of the Risen Lord appearing to his disciples; starting next Sunday, our gospels will be from his Last Supper discourse that were his final instructions before his Passion, Death, and Resurrection.

This is the third appearance by Jesus to his disciples that happened at the shore of Lake Tiberias (aka, Galilee) one early morning after Simon Peter and six other disciples went fishing the night before and caught nothing. The story is quite long but very remarkable with how Jesus was recognized in the blessedness of John the beloved and in the sinfulness of Peter.

Such is the beauty and power of Easter, of Jesus breaking all barriers to come to us so we may experience his love and mercy and forgiveness. As we have reflected last week, it is not the number nor length of our Risen Lord’s appearances that matter but its inexpressible intensity demanding our intense response to him which we find today in John and Simon Peter.

Photo by author, November 2018.

“It is the Lord!”

The disciples were still at a loss three weeks after the Lord had risen. Despite his twice appearances to them, they could not yet grasp Easter’s meaning; it would still be a long way to go before they understand everything when the Holy Spirit comes on Pentecost as Jesus had promised them.

Trying to pick up the pieces of their lives, the seven disciples led by Simon Peter went fishing one night but caught nothing until Jesus appeared to them unrecognized.

When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?” They answered him, “No.” So he said to them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.” So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish. So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad, and jumped into the sea.

John 21:4-7

What a beautiful story reminding us of the need to be always in the state of grace, of being in love first with Jesus to see and recognize him in the bountiful blessings he pours upon us daily!

See how it was the disciple whom Jesus loved who first recognized the Lord upon seeing the plentiful catch of fish with a wonderful interplay of catching many fish and recognizing Jesus.

Photo by author, Puerto del Sol, Bolinao, Pangasinan, 20 April 2022.

For people truly in love with Jesus, everyday is a miracle, a day of his coming, of his loving presence among us.

Being in love with Jesus is having a prayer life in him that makes us attuned with him, becoming automatic with us to find Christ present in the various events happening in our lives, whether they are good or bad as both count as blessings to anyone who truly believes in him.

John must have been so in love with Jesus, remembering so well the first time he met the Lord with his brother James and their partners Peter and brother Andrew after a similar incident when they have caught nothing the previous night and Jesus invited them to “cast their net into the deep.” It must have been a “love at first sight” for him with the Lord that they eventually left everything including their father to follow Jesus as “fishers of men” (Lk.5:1-11, Fifth Sunday Ordinary Time, 06 February 2022).

When we love, our senses and our memories are heightened of our beloved’s words and actions that we can see and feel them around us even after they are gone. When we love, we find newness in life every day with Jesus standing at the shore every dawn waiting for us to wake up and lead us to a bountiful catch of fish daily. Of course, the fish is found only in the sea or lake but for us to catch them, we need to find Jesus first.

That is why it is necessary that we begin and end each day in Jesus praying. When we love someone, we always talk and listen, always communicating in various ways with our beloved.

Problem is when we do not pray, we get preoccupied with what we do not have – of not catching anything – of looking more into the dark or murky waters of life not seeing the light in the horizon, of Jesus at the shore.

Photo by author (2017), the shore of Lake Tiberias where Jesus asked Simon Peter thrice “Do you love me?”

“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”

After bringing in their haul of “one hundred fifty-three large fish” to the shore for breakfast with Jesus, our story reaches its climax with Jesus asking Peter thrice, using his original name Simon with the question, “Do you love me?”.

Peter was distressed that Jesus had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep… And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”

John 21:17, 19

Peter understood fully well (gets niya, as the young would say) why Jesus asked him thrice with “do you love me?” to signify the three occasions he denied knowing him while being arraigned by the Sanhedrin on the night of Holy Thursday.

This time, there was no denying on Peter’s part that he had truly sinned that night in denying Jesus three times! And he was distressed because he was deeply sorry, telling Jesus, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” See the humility and sincerity of Peter in responding to the Lord’s question as he admitted his guilt of denying Jesus; but at the same time, his love and faith in the Lord despite his sinfulness and weaknesses. In telling Jesus “Lord you know everything; you know that I love you”, Peter was declaring his deep conviction that Jesus knows very well all our sins but at the same time knows too as well how much we love him in all of our imperfections.

Sin is not really that bad at all, so to speak, in the sense that even in our sinfulness, Jesus comes to meet us, assuring us of his love, of his mercy and forgiveness.

Photo by author, September 2021.

Just like his first words when nailed on the Cross, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Lk.23:34), Jesus comes to us quickly in our moments of sin, inviting us to come back to him. Every time we feel that guilt after committing a sin, when we feel that shame within, that is the moment too when Jesus calls us personally like Simon, not only asking us if we love him but assuring us most of all that he loves us in spite and despite our sins.

Here we find a different interplay: the more Jesus directed Simon unto himself – do you love me?– the more Simon saw his sinfulness but at the same time experienced Christ’s forgiveness and love for him because like John the beloved, he had always loved Jesus from the start despite his many flaws and weaknesses that would later be smoothened by the Lord.

Remain in love with Jesus. This is the grace of this third Sunday in Easter. We cannot follow nor meet Jesus whether in our blessedness or sinfulness unless we love him first of all. Jesus perfectly knows human love is imperfect; only he can love us perfectly. We do not have to pretend to be perfect before him; just be our true selves, sinful yet sorrowful, to surely meet him who never leaves our side.


Dearest Lord Jesus,
open my heart to love you more
so that my eyes may always see you
in life's many blessings and trials 
that come my way daily;
let me love you more so that
I obey God rather than men and women
who keep on demanding so many things
from me, enslaving me with their many
offers that pretend to make me perfect;
when things become difficult,
open my eyes like your Apostles
who found themselves worthy
to suffer dishonor for your sake (Acts 5:29, 31)
who alone is "worthy to receive power 
and riches, wisdom and strength,
honor and glory and blessing" (Rev.5:12).
Amen.

Photo by author, Puerto del Sol, Bolinao, Pangasinan, 19 April 2022.

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