Friday, April 9, 2010

Faith not lived amidst the ordinary circumstances of daily life is no more than an illusion (Friday in the Octave of Easter, John 21:1-14)

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.

* * * * * * *

Today’s reading is the very last chapter of the Gospel of John. According to bible scholars it was added long after the Gospel had already been written. If we read the previous chapter, we will see that the Gospel’s story about the resurrection of Jesus is essentially complete. Why was there a need to add today’s story?

After the gospel of John had been written, there were still those who refused to believe that Jesus had risen. Two rumors were circulated by the church’s enemies. First, that Jesus’ body was really stolen by his disciples who then made up with the story that he was alive. And second, that what they were really seeing were visions or hallucinations. Jesus wasn’t alive. The Resurrection was an elaborate hoax.

And so the author of the Gospel decided to tell more stories about Jesus appearing to his disciples and doing things that ordinary people do. He was standing by the shore, he pointed a school of fish to them, he made a charcoal fire, and ate breakfast with them. Those aren’t things that an illusion or a figment of the imagination would do. Those are things that a living, flesh and blood human being does

The point of the story is simple: Jesus is really alive. He did rise from the dead, and so he does ordinary things with his disciples.

But the story also bears a very important point for us today. We are reminded that our faith in Christ is to be lived, not only in the religious practices of Lent and Easter, but in the ordinary circumstances of our daily lives. If our faith is not to be a mere illusion or a mere figment of the imagination, we have to make it real. We have to live it.

"The Kingdom of Heaven is a condition of the heart." (Friedrich Nietzsche)