Fr. David’s homily April 10, 2016.
Breakfast on the Beach
3rd Easter Sunday
April 10, 2016
This past week was not a happy week for Tar Heel basketball fans. If you saw the big game on Monday night, and if you read the N&O every day following the game or watched local TV coverage, you would have thought that it was the end of the world. Through the tears and sobs of the fans the words from the bible rang true: “There is no joy the world can give like that which it can take away.” Now, I’m sympathetic to the team’s loss. It always makes sense to root for the home team and show disappointment when they lose. Those kids put their hearts and souls into the battle to win. Roy Williams was right: “The difference between winning and losing in college basketball is so small; the difference in your feelings is huge.” The one who put things in perspective pretty quickly was Michael Jordan, the iconic UNC basketball alumnus. He was at the game and he spoke to the team in their locker room after the game. Said Jordan: “You can’t be a great winner without having to experience struggles and losses. How you use your losses says everything about who you are.”
Good advice not only for a basketball team but also for you and me, as well as for the Apostle Peter. Loss and disappointment permeated his life, as well as the lives of many of the early disciples of Jesus. Shattered dreams linger for them of a triumphant Messiah who would liberate his people from Roman occupation. Nothing went the way the disciples intended. Judas’s enthusiasm erupted into betrayal; Peter’s devotion disintegrated into denial. They all ran scared. Jesus’ body, executed on a cross, goes missing from the tomb and then reappears—resurrected but still with wounds.
Some criticize Peter’s exasperated decision to go fishing so soon after Jesus’ death. But you have to sympathize with the guy. He needed some familiar ground. So he goes back to what he knows best, fishing. However fishing turns out to be less reliable than he remembers. And against the rhythm of empty nets cast into the sea, Jesus appears on the shoreline. Jesus begins to gather the broken pieces to himself. A fishing net filled to overflowing, a drenched disciple, grilled fish, and broken bread. These echoes of Jesus’ earlier miracles are not lost on the disciples. Being face to face with the risen Lord silences them. The other disciples fade into the background as the focus of the narrative narrows to the conversation between the risen Jesus and Peter, whom Jesus addresses as “Simon Son of John.” It’s hard to tell whether Jesus calls Peter by his original name—rather than calling him Peter, “the rock”—in order to highlight Peter’s failure to claim Jesus rather than deny him. In any case, Peter’s hurt is evident. His heartbreak is emphasized further by Jesus’ three repetitions of the question, “Do you love me?” and Peter’s increasingly emphatic replies. But Jesus doesn’t seem interested in erasing or fixing Peter’s brokenness. Instead, a broken Jesus feeds a broken Peter and commissions him to respond by extending Jesus’ sustenance to others: “feed my sheep.”
None of us escapes this life unbroken. Yet God sustains us and calls us to be about God’s work. We are not perfect. Life is full of losses. God loves us anyway—not only in spite of our losses but because of them. You may have read about Pope Francis’ new letter. It’s entitled “Joyful Love.” It’s on marriage and the family. It’s about love in each of our lives. If there’s one thing that’s so striking about Pope Francis it’s his understanding of the human condition. He knows that there’s no perfect marriage, no perfect family, no perfect person. He calls upon the church to celebrate this imperfection by understanding it and doing whatever it can to support life’s struggle. None of us goes through life unscathed. The church must welcome all, Francis says, and stop throwing stones in the form of laws and mandates.
It’s not simply sentimental to affirm that God treasures us, our brokenness, our winless ways. We run to God with a net full of fish, our extended arms filled with hope that God will be pleased. We end up with scraped knees and skinned elbows, our sidewalks and shorelines covered in disappointment, our clothes dripping wet with the weight of grief’s and losses long past. The breakfast on the beach in John’s gospel compels us to believe that our compassionate God knows a thing or two about losing. The breakfast on the beach invites us to warm our aching muscles by the fire, to taste a morsel of fresh fish, and to imagine that the risen Jesus gathers up the remnant—the imperfect but salvageable offerings of our broken lives—and cherishes them.
It reminds us that our lives are filled to the brim with the story of God at work in our lives. No regrets, only gratitude for a God who loves us unconditionally, and for a Savior who wants to sit down with us and have a little breakfast on the beach. Doesn’t get much better than that.
David J. McBriar, O.F.M.
At that time, Jesus revealed himself again to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias. He revealed himself in this way. Together were Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, Zebedee’s sons, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We also will come with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. 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. The other disciples came in the boat, for they were not far from shore, only about a hundred yards, dragging the net with the fish. When they climbed out on shore, they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you just caught.” So Simon Peter went over and dragged the net ashore full of one hundred fifty-three large fish. Even though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come, have breakfast.” And none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they realized it was the Lord. Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them, and in like manner the fish. This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to his disciples after being raised from the dead. When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He then said to Simon Peter a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” Jesus said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, 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. Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”