Because Easter is such a significant feast, we observe an Octave following the feast eight days of special liturgy of the Resurrection. However, once the Octave is over, we enter into the Easter Season. The white vestments are worn, Easter week-day liturgies are celebrated until the Feast of Pentecost, after which we will resume Ordinary Time. During these weeks, however, the scriptures recount the time when the Risen Christ appeared, first to the women at the tomb, then to the apostles, and then gradually to larger groups of individuals, Last week when Christ appeared to his disciples we saw the doubter Thomas refuse to believe unless he could put his hands into the print of the nails. Gradually Jesus reveals himself to all of the disciples, and in today’s Gospel the revelation takes place at the Sea of Tiberias. Peter is there on shore and announces that he is about to go fishing, and the disciples invite themselves to go along with him. After a night of fishing without catching anything, they spot Jesus standing on the shore, and, learning that they have caught nothing after a night of fishing, he instructs them to cast the net over the side of the boat and the result is a miraculous catch of fish. Right away the Apostles get the picture. The one who gave them this fruitful order is the Risen Jesus. They no longer doubt the lordship of Jesus.
When they land, Peter brings in the fish and Jesus prepares a meal with some of them. After the meal he addresses Peter, posing the same question three times: “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” It is as if his thrice uttered question evoked memories of Peter’s thrice uttered denial not long ago. Each time Peter answers in the affirmative, and after each response Jesus asks Peter to feed his sheep. He wants him to keep his eyes open and make sure that his flock has sufficient food. We know from the Gospel narrative that the good shepherd who takes care of his sheep is Christ, but today Peter is invested with a very special function. Here he is being rehabilitated following his threefold denial at the garden, rehabilitated for ministry through love and compassion of Jesus. The final words today issue a new invitation to Peter to recommit himself to Jesus, as he says simply “follow me.”
Fr. John R. Mulvehill