We cling so tightly, knuckles white from the pressure of holding on, muscles tense, straining with the effort as though our very lives depend upon maintaining control.
We cling because we are afraid to let go -- afraid of what life would be like once we surrender, terrified of losing our safety net, our insurance policy, our five year plan, our means of support, our circle of friends, our livelihood, our health, our relationships,
We cling because we imagine that our efforts alone can hold disaster at bay --prevent hardships, even tragedy, protect our loved ones, guarantee our standard of living...
We cling because of our willfulness, reluctant to listen to God's voice, determined only to have
way, at any cost, because God's way may be too costly.
We cling because we prefer the reality we know to the reality we do not know, because our imaginations are too narrow, and our faith, too weak, because we are unwilling to take risks, do the outrageous, or attempt the impossible.
We can neither let go the trapeze, nor take the proverbial leap of faith. And because we cling, we block change, impede growth, abort new beginnings.
Resisting God's call, we try to freeze the moment, fossilize the status quo, live in the past.
Unwilling to face truth, we deny the inevitable, acting as though we are immune to illness, misfortune, losses of every kind, including death.
But the losses which come our way, those painful "letting go's" that surprise us out of complacency, are precisely the ways in which God schools us and purifies us. Through loss, we become more aware, more compassionate, more loving, more grateful, more deeply spiritual. Through loss, we learn to let go of our egos and cling to God instead.
Loss is necessary -- and so is letting go!
A Pocketful of Sundays,
It is easy to understand why the disciples resisted the call to go to Galilee and remained hiding in the upper room, behind locked doors. Simply put, they were afraid -- just as many of us are today. We're living in a world which seems increasingly hate-filled and dangerous, with gun-violence exploding everywhere -- in churches, mosques and synagogues; in elementary schools, high schools and universities; in the work place, recreational spots, on city streets and in private homes.... Here in the U.S., hatred that has simmered quietly beneath the surface is now glaringly visible, with minority groups being the main target. Lady Liberty no longer welcomes the tired, the poor, the "huddled masses yearning to breathe free,"nor the homeless nor the "tempest-tossed." We are not a kind nation, but, rather, a mass of self-seeking, self-serving, self-gratifying individuals with little tolerance for the "differing other." Indeed, we are a "post-Christian" nation, not because our churches are empty (though many are!) but because we no longer uphold Christian values which happen to include love for that "differing other."
And who, exactly, is this "differing other"? It is that person or group of people who look different from us, or who speak differently, or who come from a different faith tradition, or who belong to a different socio-economic stratum. The differing other" can also be those who are physically or mentally challenged, or members of the LGBTQ community, or those who are homeless or out of work. Sadly, when we see that "differing other," we can feel threatened, or repulsed, or judgmental; instead of reaching out in love, we barricade ourselves behind locked doors.
The Easter message, however, is that we need to vacate our upper rooms and go out into the world to feed the lambs and tend the sheep -- not just the sheep clones of ourselves (remember Dolly?) but the seemingly wild and woolly sheep, the mutton-headed sheep, the sheep caught in the brambles, the lost sheep and all the sheep that, for one reason or another, no longer have a place in the fold-- or never stepped over the Welcome mat!
The first step towards healing society is to abandon hateful rhetoric as cruel words escalate into violent actions; the second is simply to love, especially those who seem so different from ourselves.
At that time, Jesus revealed himself again to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias: Together were Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee and two other disciples. Simon Peter said, "I'm going fishing."
They replied, "We will come with you."
So they went out and got into the boat, but all night they caught nothing. When dawn came, Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
Jesus called out, "Children, have you caught anything to eat?"
They answered, "No."
So he said, "Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something."
So they cast the net, 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 this, 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.
This post Resurrection story has much in common with Lk 5: 1-11. In the Lucan narrative, Jesus goes out in with Simon in his boat and, after preaching to the crowds, instructs the fisherman to cast his net in deep water. Simon explains that he and his partners have caught nothing all night; however, he goes along with the strange request, possibly because Jesus has just healed his mother-in-law (Lk 4:38-39) and possibly because he is impressed by Jesus' teachings. As in today's Gospel, there is a miraculous catch, with fishing nets strained to breaking point; and, as another point of similarity, the great catch in Lk 4 leads to a profession of faith and a commissioning:
"Do not be afraid: from now on you will be catching men"
In Jn 21, Jesus specifically addresses Simon Peter following the miraculous catch, asking him three times if he loves him; after each of Simon Peter's answers in the affirmative, Jesus tells him to care for the flock:
"Feed my lambs".... "Tend my sheep"... "Feed my sheep."
The passage culminates in two powerful words:
It's not clear why Simon Peter decides to go fishing. At this point, John's Gospel has already recorded Jesus' appearance to Mary of Magdala and two appearances to the disciples when they were hiding behind closed doors; John also references "many other signs" (Jn 21:30). We can assume, then, that Simon Peter and the six other disciples who accompany him, have already encountered the Risen Christ which is why they have left their hiding place and are "out and about," finally obeying his instruction to go to Galilee (Matt 28:7). Why Galilee? No doubt it is safer than Jerusalem; moreover, it offers the opportunity to spend time with family and simply rest -- a kind of "Shabbat experience" or "time out."
Perhaps it's the call of the water, perhaps it's the desire to revert to an old way of life when everything was so much simpler, or perhaps Simon Peter is simply restless as he and the others wait for further direction-- at any rate, the Sea of Tiberias (also known as the Sea of Galilee and Lake Gennesaret) summons him. There are no further scriptural details. It is possible that the disciples head out in a boat belonging to old Zebedee or to another relative; perhaps Peter and his companions want to see if they still have a knack for fishing. At any rate, it is here in Galilee that Jesus appears for the third time to the disciples (Jn 21:14) and they know him in the mighty catch and in the Eucharistic breakfast of bread and fish.
The Epilogue to John's Gospel
is not only a "sending forth" of the disciples (represented by Simon Peter and his six companions) but also a sending forth of anyone who feels called to follow "The Way." If we examine the final narrative, together with the previous chapter, we find there are some distinct phases involved in this process:
- Before they can hear this new call, the disciples receive the gift of Christ's peace. In Jn 20, Jesus' first words to his disciples are, "Peace be with you." Like the disciples, we need to be at peace with ourselves and with the world if we are to open our hearts and minds to God's call. As long as we are possessed by fear, we will remain locked behind closed doors.
- The disciples have to move beyond disbelief to faith --which is why Jesus shows them his hands and his side. We, too, need to be people of faith if we are to proclaim the Gospel, through our words, actions and way of life.
- Jesus breathes the Holy Spirit onto the disciples, initiating a new creation. We, too, must be open to the Spirit if we are to leave behind our old selves and become a new creation in Christ.
- The disciples ultimately have to turn their backs on the past (their fishing days) so as to fulfill their mission. We cannot respond to God's call if we remain glued to what is familiar.
- The disciples' greatest joy is being in loving companionship with Jesus -- take, for example, Simon Peter's spontaneous leap over the side of the boat when he hears, "It is the Lord!" (Jn 20:7). We cannot be disciples if our faith is lukewarm or if we aren't in a love-relationship with Christ.
- The disciples "stop for breakfast" -- before they can hear God's Word, they have to take care of their physical needs. So, we, too, need to maintain our physical well-being if we intend to serve.
- Simon Peter's dialogue with Jesus allows him to move beyond his triple denials after Jesus' arrest by re-affirming his love and commitment. Like Simon Peter, we need to deal with our "baggage" -- whatever it might be-- if we are to be effective ministers of God's Word.
- Finally, just as Simon Peter receives the explicit call to nurture the people of God, so we, too, receive an explicit call (or multiple calls!), if we will only listen. When will we hear?
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
- Reading over the list of 8 steps outlined above, how many of these have you experienced?
- Are there any steps which you need to work on at this point in your life?
- What holds you back from fully responding to God's call?
- Do you "stop for breakfast" or "go fishing" on a regular basis? If not, what is stopping you?
Archetypes as Inner Tyrants, Inner Guides
Infinity Foundation, Highland Park, IL
June 24th, July 1st, July 8th, 2019
Mondays, 7:00-9:00 p.m. CST