Father Donald Senior, CP

May 5: Third Sunday of Easter

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Breakfast on the shore

Acts 5:27-32, 40-41; Ps 30:2, 4, 5-6 11-12, 13; Rv 5:11-14; Jn 21:1-19

The Scripture readings for this Sunday continue the tone of exuberant joy just right for this time between Easter and Pentecost.

In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear about the dynamism and vitality of the early Christian community in Jerusalem, still highly charged with the gift of the Spirit in the wake of Jesus’ resurrection. The religious authorities try to suppress the apostles’ preaching but to no avail: “We gave you strict orders, did we not, to stop teaching in that name (i.e., Jesus)?” 

The apostles accept no restraints. “We must obey God rather than humans,” Peter replies. The famous Quaker hymn  “How Can We Keep From Singing?” comes to mind. We know the feeling. When we experience truly good news that fills us with joy, we have to tell the world.

The mood of the reading from Acts is brash and explosive. The mood of the Gospel selection from John is quite different, but also filled with Easter joy. This is the story of the disciples’ encounter with the risen Christ on the shore of the Sea of Galilee found in Chapter 21 of John’s Gospel. 

Many interpreters have described this as something of an appendix to the Gospel narrative because the evangelist seems to conclude the Gospel at the end of Chapter 20 with the appearance of the risen Jesus to his disciples that we heard last Sunday. Appendix or not, this account matches John’s style and is one of the most exquisite stories in the entire New Testament.

Several of Jesus’ disciples, including Peter and the Beloved Disciple, are still confused and sad in the wake of Jesus’ crucifixion. They returned from Jerusalem to their home region of Galilee.

Listless, Peter decides to go fishing — his old profession. The other disciples join him, and they set out on a night of fishing, but, matching their mood, they catch nothing.

Suddenly a mysterious figure on the shore calls out to them, “Children [the Greek word is an affectionate diminutive that could also be translated as “boys,” or “lads”], have you caught anything?” This is a difficult question for those who have labored all night with nothing to show for it.

“No,” they reply. The man on the shore directs them to put their nets down on the right side of the boat and they do so, hauling in a catch so great that it threatened to sink their boat.

Abundance in the midst of scarcity. New life where none existed. Love that never fails. Suddenly they knew who this mysterious figure was, although they could hardly dare to believe it. True to form, the Beloved Disciple first recognizes Jesus and it is the impulsive Peter who dives into the water and swims to meet Jesus on the shore.

The beauty of this encounter is only beginning. Jesus is preparing breakfast for his disciples with bread and some fish already on the grill. “Bring some of the fish you just caught,” Jesus says. He then serves the dumbfounded disciples breakfast.

They eat, but their eyes and hearts are on their host. None of them dare ask him who he is, the Gospel says, “for they realized it was the Lord.”

Jesus was not done yet. He turns to Peter and draws from him a threefold declaration of his love: “Simon Peter, do you love me?” 

“Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” 

Each confession of his love heals in Peter the terrible memory of his threefold denial during the passion of Jesus. “Feed my lambs, feed my sheep,” Jesus tells him. Not only is Peter forgiven and healed, but he is commissioned to proclaim the Gospel and care for the community.

The readings this season remind us of who Jesus is and the spirit of his mission. In John’s Gospel this same Jesus who serves breakfast for his weary disciples washed their feet on the eve of his own trial and death. Foot washing and feeding is Jesus at work. These are expressions of God’s tender love for us and examples of what it means to follow him.




  • scripture