John 21: 1-19
1 After these events, Jesus showed himself again to the disciples on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias. He showed himself thus. 2 There were together Simon Peter, Thomas, called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee and two others of his disciples. 3 Simon Peter said to them, "I'm going to fish". They said, "We are coming with you too". They left and got into the boat. That night they took nothing. 4 While the first morning lights had already appeared, Jesus was on the shore. However, the disciples did not recognize him. 5 Jesus therefore said to them, "Children, do you have anything to eat?" They replied, "No". 6 Then he said to them, "Throw the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find". So they threw their net, and they were unable to pull it because of the abundance of fish. 7 The disciple, the one Jesus loved, then said to Peter, "It is the Lord". Having heard that it was the Lord, Simon Peter girded his garment, because he was naked, and he threw himself into the sea. 8 The other disciples came in the little boat, dragging the fish net, because they were not far from the land, less than a hundred meters. 9 When they touched the ground, they saw that a fire of embers was there as well as fish placed above and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, "Bring the fish you have just caught. 11 So Simon Peter got into the boat and pulled the net full of big fish, one hundred and fifty-three, onto the shore. But despite all this multitude, the net did not tear. 12 Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast!" No one among the disciples dared to inquire about him saying, "who are you"? They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus comes and takes the bread, then gives it to them, and does the same with the fish. 14 It was already the third time that the disciples experienced the risen Jesus from the dead.
15 When they had lunch, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" He replied, "Yes, Lord, you know that I like you". Jesus said to him, "Watch over my lambs." 16 Then he said to him for the second time, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" He replied: "Yes, Lord, you know I like you. Jesus said to him, "Watch over my sheep." 17 Jesus said to him for the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you like me?" Peter was sad that Jesus asked him for the third time, "Do you like me?" Then he replied, "Lord, you know all things, you know how I like you". Jesus said to him, "Watch over my sheep." 18 Truly, Truly I assure you, when you were younger, you put on your belt and walked where you wanted. When you get old and stretch out your hands, someone else will gird you and drag you where you don't want". 19 He said this to indicate by what death he was going to recognize the extraordinary quality of God's being. After these words, he said to him, "Follow me".
By gathering for the meal,
Gospel commentary - Homily
Let me tell this true story*. Lawrence was barely 22 years old when, with his girlfriend, Chantal, he played Bonnie and Clyde: bank robberies, life in motels, parties, drugs. Two years later, Chantal is pregnant. For Lawrence, it is a shock that creates an awareness: he begins to move away from drugs. For Chantal, nothing changes. The two find themselves in prison and it is in prison that Caroline will be born. After leaving prison, Chantal uses drugs more than ever and disappears in the mist with another guy. It is Chantal's father, John-Paul, whom Lawrence calls Grandfather, who takes care of Caroline. Lawrence, for his part, has completely stopped using drugs. To live, he becomes an itinerant go-go boy before Grandpa finds him work with carpenters who do renovations. And both take care of little Caroline.
But one day, Chantal reappears with a new boyfriend and a son, Max. As she is sober, she takes over Caroline. But her demons return quickly, the heroine, a new friend, in short it is hell at home. Lawrence decides to go get Caroline, without her objecting. But Lawrence's new girlfriend, Rita, begins to release her venom in the face of the new situation. Lawrence quickly makes a decision: Rita will leave. Meanwhile Grandfather intervenes with Max to try to protect him from his mother, until a social worker intervenes at the request of Max's father. Lawrence offers to take care of Max, which is accepted. A few months later, he accepted legal custody: he was not his son, but he was still Caroline's brother.
The years go by. Grandpa grew old and ended up in a long-term senior home. Caroline made a friend, Mario, and went to live with him. Lawrence found a new girlfriend and went to live with her, dragging Max with him. But this girlfriend does not accept the latter, and Max ends up with his sister Caroline. Meanwhile Grandfather is wasting away visibly and only waiting for death. Seeing it, Caroline decides to take him home. But she is expecting her first baby and the house is starting to get small. However, Lawrence had just dropped his girlfriend and rented a huge house. So all these people move together in this new house. Today, we find Grandfather, 84 years old, Caroline and Mario, their first baby Laurie-Eve, and now their second Emma-Rose. And there is Max and, of course, Lawrence with Rocky, his golden retriever. We could add Arielle, on weekends, the daughter of a friend of an ex-girlfriend of Lawrence, whom the office of the Directorate of Youth Protection had agreed to see living in the apartment found by Lawrence and that he had helped move in.
So that's the story I wanted to tell you. You are certainly wondering: why? Are we not far from this story of the miraculous fishing following which the risen Jesus eats with his disciples followed by this story where Jesus entrusts Simon Peter with his pastoral responsibility? Because spontaneously, we hear these stories as things of the past: seven disciples had the chance two thousand years ago to meet the risen Jesus, and Simon Peter became at that time the first pope. This is a serious mistake, because with this view there is nothing for us on a personal level. So let me change your glasses, and you will first see the link between my story about Lawrence and this passage from the Gospel of John, and how the Gospel speaks about us today.
You know the story by heart. We are after Easter on the shore of Lake Galilee. Simon Peter and six other disciples of Jesus go by boat to fish. All night their fishing is unsuccessful, but at dawn, listening to the advice of a man on the shore they do not recognize, Jesus, they pull in their net an extraordinary amount of fish, one hundred and fifty-three to be precise, a number that represents perhaps all known fish species. The story adds that, despite the number, the net was not torn. All this fish, with bread, will be used for a kind of banquet presided over by Jesus, a banquet that repeats the one that took place in the same place in chapter six of the Gospel when Jesus fed the crowd. In reading such a story, you have to know how to put on not your three dimensional glasses, but your four dimensional glasses, the fourth being that which allows you to grasp the symbols. Because let's not forget that the Gospel was written around the 90s, sixty years after the death of Jesus. Let's take a closer look at the details.
Throughout the story there is a leader, the Risen Jesus. When he's not there, it's night. But when he is present, it is daybreak. So it was he who took the initiative to question the disciples: "Children, do you have anything to eat?" While the Greek vocabulary has several words to designate the child, the one used here (paidion) has an affectionate and protective connotation and denotes both the concern of a parent who cares about what his household experiences, and the desire of a master to educate his students. This is how the evangelist presents the motivation of Jesus to act. Thus, following the advice of Jesus, the disciples will draw such a quantity of fish from their nets. Who are these fish? They are humans, as Luke's parallel account will clearly say (Lk 5:10). Besides, the word "to draw" (in Greek helkuō) was earlier in the mouth of Jesus: "Once raised from the earth, I will draw all men to me. "(Jn 12:32) This "all" is represented in our narrativeby by the number one hundred and fifty-three, the greatest possible diversity and variety. The result of this attraction to Jesus is the creation of this large family which shares the same meal. For the evangelist who writes around the year 90, he sees several communities, in particular his around the disciple whom Jesus loved: it is the same wonder at the action of the risen Jesus and at such a great diversity of people living a form of communion.
All of this brings us back to Lawrence and his tribe. What did he achieve? Something similar to the Gospel story. Of course, the Risen Jesus is never named. But tell me, is there a location that escapes his action, if we put on the glasses of faith? It is a serious mistake to limit Jesus' action to what is happening in the churches. His action is universal. The Gospel has this word during the trial of Jesus: "He (Caiaphas) prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation - and not for the nation only, but also in order to bring together the dispersed children of God". (Jn 12, 51-52). We are delegated to do Jesus' work. That's what Lawrence did by taking care of all these different people and bringing them together, even if he would be surprised to hear me. And don't tell me that he doesn't have an uplifting past, he who did bank robberies. I know another man who has things to regret, his name is Simon Peter.
Indeed, it is interesting to note that our narrative is followed by that where Jesus asks Simon three times "do you love me?" It is clear that these three questions are intended to counterbalance Simon's three denials. And Jesus entrusted Simon with pastoral leadership, that of bringing together the dispersed people. What matters is not Simon's blunders, but his ability to love.
There is something beautiful and intimidating in what is asked of us. If we only had to rely on us, on our openness and our talents as a unifier, almost nothing would happen. But if we are believers, we know that there is this living being who constantly says to us with so much concern: "Children, do you have anything to eat?". It is he who works the hearts. So let ourselves be carried by this faith, look at things differently, and create our "tribe", or at least, know how to see and support this action around us.
-André Gilbert, Gatineau, March 2013