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John 21:1-19 – following the Risen One

“I will make you fishers of men” (Mt 4:19) – That was the first word of Jesus to Peter and the first ones He had called to follow him. In the Gospels, the symbolism of fishing often refers to the reality of the mission enfolded in each call.

5pb 01Cassandra Gillens, USA, “Alijah the Shrimper” We find ourselves in Galilee, on Lake Tiberias and witness to Simon Peter’s decision to go back to fishing, that is, to resume an ordinary life of hard work, which  is also a return to the way he lived  before quitting everything to follow the Master. The others had followed him.

The fishing takes place at night, as usual, and unfortunately it is totally fruitless.

As dawn rises, Jesus “is” on the bank, but they do not recognize him. With paternal care, He is concerned if they have food  to eat and, at their negative answer, He gives them a clear indication, making sure that they will find fish.

What we see is humble and simple obedience on the part of these professional fishermen, who trust the word of a stranger, overcoming their own reasonable doubts.

The sudden abundance of fish becomes for the Beloved Disciple, a clear sign that it is the Lord: his heart and mind turn completely to Him.  That sign is enough for John to recognize Jesus and at once he goes to tell Peter what happened.

It is Peter himself who, in obedience to the word of the Risen One, draws the net to land, filled with 153 fish, a number that certainly indicates the character of the mission entrusted to him and to the early Church, as well as to each us today: we are called to lead many brothers and sisters to Christ, but in order to do that we have to cross borders, to leave our security and beliefs behind so as to become witnesses, without having any preference for people or excluding anyone whatsoever.

After the meal, we witness the intimate dialogue between Jesus and Peter.

5pb 02Bénédicte De La Roncière, Nigeria, Africa, “Peche Miraculeuse”The three-fold question about his love recalls the triple denial of Peter.  By denying having known the Master, he denied his own identity and moved away from the truth of his discipleship, alienating himself from his own self.  He’s back to being Simon, the son of John.  But now the Master gives him an opportunity to find himself again, after recognizing his own weakness, as the disciple called to a truer love, rooted in the mercy that forgives and renews.

Jesus asks three different questions. The first time he asks, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than anyone else?” And He uses the word “agape,” the greatest and absolute love, while Peter answers using the less demanding word “philia,” friendship, saying: “Lord, you know that I care for you, that I am your friend,” and does not dare to compare himself with anyone else.

The second time Jesus just asks: “Do you love me?” but poses no comparison with anyone else, although that absolute love remains.  Also this time Peter does not dare talk about love and clings to friendship.
In the third question, Jesus simply asks: “Do you like me?  Are you my friend?” He asks to what extent Peter can offer Him his love or friendship.  He puts Himself at Peter’s level, He loves him and welcomes him in his smallness.
Grieved, Peter then recognizes the poverty of his love and gives in, knowing that he is known and accepted for what he is.

Finding his own truth, he finds again his own vocation and receives the gift of hearing, reconfirmed, the mission that had constituted him the rock on which Jesus built his Church, a responsibility that is  now combined with a service.  Peter is asked to both nourish and lead the lambs and the sheep belonging to the only good and beautiful Shepherd who entrusts them to his care.

The mission that is entrusted to our care finds its meaning and strength in our choosing to live the truest charity, which is to follow in the footsteps of the One who loved all without measure.  We are shepherds when our brothers and sisters are more interesting to us than our own lives, while being willing to devote ourselves to them and offering our life for their sake.

Questions for reflection

Am I willing to “cross borders”, to “leave my security behind” so as to become a witness to ALL people, “without having any preference for people or excluding anyone whatsoever”?  Is my love “AGAPE” (without measure) or “PHILIA” (friendship) for Jesus -- who accepts me as I am?
Do we, as a Congregation, live the mission entrusted to our care by following “in the footsteps of JESUS” who loves us “agape” (without measure)?  


To those who are discouraged
Maybe some of us feel discouraged, maybe the Resurrection still cannot take us into the light. Don’t worry, that is exactly what happened to the Apostles, with Peter first!
The experience of the Cross was certainly difficult for all of them, and in the Gospel of John we read that they are in full crisis:  there is nothing left for them to do but to go back to their old everyday jobs.
How many Christians are in the same situation as the Apostles? How many Christians feel discouraged every day and look for luck elsewhere?
Like the Apostles they feel that everything can be summed up in the word “nothing”: they have neither fish, nor courage, nor joy, nor the clarity of mind to make decisions for the future.
And Jesus patiently begins his lesson again: Jesus is the Lord, and this is why he offers abundant fishing to his Apostles; Jesus is the Servant, and this is why he lights the fire and prepares the supper for them; Jesus is the Shepherd, and this is why he entrusts his gifts to Peter.
Jesus reveals the secret of this path: the relationship with him, a relationship of love.
His question for each of us and for all those who are discouraged is: “Do you really love me?” Obviously if we seek Jesus for our own gain, then our love is mean-spirited. But on the other hand, if we truly love the Lord, then we can never feel discouraged.
Easter is love! It is my love for Christ, it is our love for Christ!
Father Bruno Favero OMI, Dakar

From the EASTER EVE 2016 Message at the Cathedral of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
The celebration of Easter, we believe, is a source of hope for Christians because Jesus’ resurrection heralds the advent of a new world.
Dear brothers and sisters, following the painful events that hit our country, it is now time for reconciliation, social cohesion and national unity. In this context, Christians are called to be “the salt of the earth and the light of the world” and we have a vital role. It is up to us work hard in society to be true messengers of justice, peace, and reconciliation.
We are therefore invited, each of us according to his/her own capabilities, to be witnesses and heralds of unity and peace, through tolerance, and of dialogue and mediation in order to prevent all forms of conflict incited by vengeance and hatred.
Following the risen Jesus, let us live to build holy Christian families, active and evangelical, and together with other believers and people of good will, let us build a world more worthy of God and of humanity.

+ Cardinal Philippe OUEDRAOGO
Archbishop of Ouagadougou

5pb 05Live in harmony and be witnesses of hope and resurrection
The image we have prepared represents the Geographical Area of Senegal: ours is a small Area, like a garden, which gives various beautiful flowers. It conveys joy and serenity to the heart; it pushes us to go beyond our horizons; it invites us to be grateful to God for the life that circulates even in the most hidden forms of poverty and for the signs of Resurrection that we contemplate even among the miseries.

It is a garden that is well-kept by its gardener, so its growth and harmony are visible, where we meet the resurrection among the little things. This beauty we contemplate encourages us to live our vocation faithfully and to take care of the whole creation: each flower is unique; it represents the new life which blossoms from the Resurrection and contributes to the beauty of the whole.

The garden is our reality. The gardener is God. Our charism is what gives healing and harmony. The Resurrection is the faith that animates us.
The flowers represent our Ministries, through which we try to respond to the needs of humanity and offer healing. Our mission urges us to be witnesses of the Resurrection, to be prophet,s and to give hope.
The reasons for our joy are the blessings and vocations with which God fills us.

Following the example of the Risen Jesus we are invited to love “without measure” our sisters in community and all those we serve in many different ways. We are called to set free the energy of the Risen Jesus so that the beauty and harmony of God can shine in all creation.

Sr. Marie Augustine Ndione

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Published: May, 2, 2016