Sunday Reflection with Fr Terry Tastard - 18 April 2010

Dawn over Sea of Galilee

Dawn over Sea of Galilee

The gospel we hear today, (John 21.1-14), is a beautifully crafted story. There is definitely an element of humour here. In the half-light of dawn, a figure stands on the beach. We know it is Jesus, but the disciples cannot yet see him clearly. He teases them a little: "Have you caught anything, friends?" Wearily, they say No. He suggests trying something different.  There follows the jaw-dropping moment, when, in response to his words, they draw in a huge catch and the penny drops: "It is the Lord!" You definitely catch the smile on the face of Jesus.  I think that we are like those disciples in three ways.

First, like them we do not always recognise Jesus. We want to see where he is in our lives and to hear what he is saying to us. Jesus stands among us, but in our noise and confusion and busyness it is sometimes difficult for us to recognise him.  On the Galilee shore it was the dim light of dawn.  For ourselves, our ability to see is dimmed by the pressures of our lives, and by the scepticism of the culture around us.
Second, like the disciples we have known what it is to toil fruitlessly. I have known wonderful parents, people of great faith, who have seen their children fall away from the faith. Priests themselves, for that matter, sometimes see good people wander away from the church, either from disillusionment or perhaps reeling from some awful blow in life. Then there is the crisis of the present moment, with abusive priests shown to have betrayed the trust of the community.  This brings terrible hurt, and one of the consequences is a distrust of the Church.  It can feel as if we have toiled in vain. There, on the seashore, Jesus asked the disciples to try again.  In the same way today Jesus asks us not to despair, and to continue with the work and the witness to the faith that he gives us. By the way, if we look on the other side of the barque of Peter we will see that the Catholic Church is growing and flourishing. There is a rich harvest elsewhere, even if in closer to us the results are mediocre.

Finally, I love the intimacy of the story. Jesus, who washed his disciples, feet, provides a breakfast as well. The charcoal fire warms them in the Galilee dawn mist, the fish sizzles gently on the grill, the bread fills their hungry stomachs. There is a comfortable silence around the fire. They know who it is who is with them. Jesus asks the same of us: that we should be comfortable with him. He comes among us as the Risen Lord but at the same time he is humble enough to know our needs and the circumstances of our lives. It is an invitation to us to open our hearts to him, and to seek his help, in things great and small.  The gospel according to John is bracketed by two incidents in which Jesus invites the disciples to be at ease with him.  Early on (John 1.39) Jesus invites Andrew and his friend to come to his home.  Now, near the end of the gospel we see Jesus as cook and host.

Yes, this is the Son of God, the Messiah, the Chosen One,  the Risen Lord. But this is also God’s love made visible among us, in his gentle caring of the disciples, even of their need for food and rest. We glimpse once more that love at work.  The same love reaches out to us today.

Fr Terry is Parish Priest at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Brook Green, west London.   His new book:  Ronald Knox and English Catholicism is published by Gracewing at £12.99 and is available on Amazon, from religious booksellers and from the publisher.
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