Tuesday, 13 April 2010

3rd Sunday of Easter - Year C

Acts 5:27-32, 40-41; Apocalypse 5:11-14; John 21:1-19

Lectio Divina is the art of reading the Sacred Scriptures. It has four main steps:
  • Reading
  • Meditation
  • Prayer
  • Contemplation
You just take your Bible and sit in a quiet, comfortable place, open at page one and begin reading. That's not so difficult. Don't read too much - just enough to fill your mind. It's a bit like taking a glass of water from the tap, just enough to satisfy your thirst. You wouldn't try to drink the tap dry, would you?

Now you can begin meditating, just thinking about what you have read. Some people find this difficult. There are different ways to meditate and you have to find your own doorway into this activity. Practice makes perfect. I sometimes like to use what I call the 'snapshot' method.

Take, for example, St Peter in today's Gospel. It's evening. Jesus is risen, they have seen him, but where is he now? What's happened to him? What are they supposed to do? Suddenly Peter says to the others present, 'I'm going fishing' and off they go together.

They fish all night and catch nothing. I can just imagine what he looked as it began to get light - cold, wet, tired and dishevelled. When John the Beloved says, 'It is the Lord', Peter immediately wraps his cloak round himself, jumps into the water and after a short swim climbs up to meet Jesus. The two men, separated by the fire, stand facing each other, motionless. That's when I raise my camera and 'click'. A fine shot, if I may say so.

Peter remains awkwardly before Jesus. He is cold and the fire is warm but he keeps his distance. I mentally flip back the pages of my photo album. Something about the scene is drawing my memory to another fire. Aha! Here it is, taken only a few nights ago! This fire burns in the courtyard of the High Priest's house and again Peter is there, this time sitting and warming himself. That was the night he three times denied being a follower of Jesus. It was a night of shame for Peter and perhaps the attractively warm fire on the sand is an unpleasant reminder to him of his weakness that awful night.

So there they stand on the beach facing each other - Master and disciple, good shepherd and wayward sheep.

I recall the words of the gospel of Luke when Peter denied the Lord for the third time and the cock crew: At that instant, while he was still speaking, the cock crew, and the Lord turned and looked straight at Peter, and Peter remembered what the Lord had said to him, 'Before the cock crows today, you will have disowned me three times'. And he went outside and wept bitterly. (Lk 22:60-62)

In my snapshot Jesus is still looking 'straight at Peter'. St Faustina used to comment when Jesus was 'gazing' at her that not the smallest speck of dust escaped his attention. We can only imagine how St Peter might have felt. What was going on in his heart? What was he thinking? Naturally, the memory of his recent infidelity would be causing him considerable discomfort under the penetrating eyes of his Master.

Happily the other disciples now come ashore and crowd the beach. Jesus asks for someone to bring some of the fish. Simon Peter goes back to the boat and drags the net to the shore, full of big fish, one hundred and fifty-three of them, and the net was not broken. Did Simon have a sudden flashback to that day when Jesus borrowed his boat to preach from (Luke 5:1-11), and then afterwards directed them to such a huge catch of fish that their nets began to tear? Or maybe he recalled the twelve baskets of scraps gathered from the five thousand on the hill? At any rate he knew he was again in the presence of the one he had called the Christ, the Son of the living God - the one he had denied.

After the meal Jesus turns once again to Simon. They have some unfinished business and Jesus means to remedy that. Three times he asks Simon 'Do you love me'; three times Simon responds with a yes. It was, of course, the third time that upset him the most. The servant girl had caused him to deny the Lord, now the Lord was, with utmost delicacy, giving him an opportunity to affirm his love, and his sorrow. What kindness from Jesus! What relief for Peter!

Our reflection on this snapshot of Peter with Jesus at the fire has been brief, but it allows us to move on to step three of our Lectio Divina - we pray. We will take our time, use our own words, speak our own thoughts. It may be that we, too, have experienced the 'gaze' of the Lord during this meditation, and come to realise that we have denied Jesus in some way. It may be that we, too, have experienced the compassion of Jesus in some way. It may be that we need to ask forgiveness from Jesus, and to allow ourselves to receive forgiveness from him.

Whatever our prayer may be we open our hearts completely to Jesus there on the beach. Those moments with him will become precious and will transform us as well as please him enormously.

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