Who Are You?

“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” (Jn 21:3).

If we put aside the other disciples for a moment and focus our attention on Peter, we’ll discover a Peter who has “fallen asleep.” The last time we encountered Peter as a fisherman was right before he met Christ. It wasn’t until Christ stepped into Peter’s boat and commanded him to cast out into the deep that Peter (the professional fisherman) caught an unfathomable amount of fish (Lk 5:1-7). It was also in this scene that he “left everything and followed him” (Lk 5:11).

Jesus was very clear about Peter’s future mission: “Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men” (Lk 5:11).

And yet, here we find Peter once again back in the boat — catching, not men, but fish. Did Peter have a brain lapse? Maybe, he just wanted a bite to eat?

Returning to Previous Lifestyle?

All of these are valid questions, but Peter’s choice to go fishing contains within it a much deeper significance. His words “I am going fishing” harkens back to a lifestyle that Peter had supposedly left behind. It is a return to the identity of Simon — a name that symbolizes less of a title and more of a lifestyle which Peter had rejected. This might cause us to think. What has happened to Peter? Why has he gone back to fishing? Did not Christ rise from the dead? Why is Peter catching fish rather than men?

Let’s turn to today’s Gospel and we might discover a few answers. Beginning at John 21:15, we encounter Jesus asking His own set of questions. “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Note that Jesus calls his Apostle by his former name, Simon, as if Jesus has also recognized the way in which Peter has “fallen asleep” in his faith.

As we go deeper, we’ll also discover that this scene includes the same ingredients as the one when Jesus first called Simon three years earlier, along the shores of Galilee. Same place and time. Same words. Same two people (Mk 1:16; Lk 5:2-11).

A Renew Call

It’s not coincidental. This scene is a continuation of that first call. Jesus is calling Peter for a second time. Peter’s love has gone dormant, and Jesus wants to reawaken it.

Do you love me
Image of Simon Peter. Photo taken by Luis Carlos Bonilla Soto. © Cathopic.

This time, though, Jesus isn’t looking for Peter to stay at His house in Galilee as the Apostle once did. Fundamentally, Jesus calls Peter because He wants Peter to lead His team: “Feed my lambs . . . Tend my sheep . . . Feed my sheep” (Jn 21:15,16,17). Jesus wants Peter to take his love and actualize it. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father” (Mt 7:21).

And how does Peter respond? “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you” (Jn 21:17). He responds with faith and a heart full of love. He accepts the plan laid out for him which leaves Jesus with only one remaining command: “Follow me” (21:19).

And as He did to Peter, Jesus speaks to each one of us: “Do you love me?” Jesus wants to call us back to His heart again and remind us of why we were created. Some of us have “fallen asleep” and gone fishing, but Jesus has greater plans for us.

For some, this may be the first calling, but for many of us, it will be Jesus calling us again. It is Him conjuring up that moment in our life when we first encountered Him. Jesus’ questioning can take us by surprise.

“Follow Me”

Imagine being Peter and having Jesus make direct eye contact (as Jesus may have done) and ask not once, not twice, but three times if we love Him. It might startle us. We might get uncomfortable or feel ashamed. But that’s the catch. Jesus wants to drive home the point: Are you with me? Are you ready to follow me? Are you ready to leave behind your Simon lifestyle and step into the mission which will lead you where you do not want to go?

Remember. Jesus makes it clear that “Follow me” doesn’t mean a personal devotion to Him. Jesus wants His disciples’ commitment to light up the world. “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” (Lk 12:49).

Peter responded and what happened? The greatest change in world history.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Mt 5:15-16).

Saying Yes

Consider what you mean when you say, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Do you? Will you let Him lead you where you do not want to go? Remember how we started out. “They went out and got into the boat; but that night they caught nothing.” Look at what changed when Jesus showed up: “They were not able to haul it in, for the quantity of fish” (Jn 21:6).

Who will you be — Simon or Peter?

[Readings: Acts 25:13b-21: Jn 21:15-19]

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Sean Calllahan

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