Peter is redeemed in today’s Gospel but it takes some humility and a statement of faith before it comes to that. I have always been troubled by John 21. Jesus seems to be playing a mind game of sorts with him and it seems out of character. John announced to those in the boat that it is the Lord who has been directing their efforts from the shore. Peter, as only he can be, throws on his clothes and jumps in the water to go to him. There is no description of what happens when he gets to the shore except for when the others join them. This was the third time that he has appeared to the disciples so it was not the first encounter.
After having breakfast, Peter is asked by Christ if he loves him more than the rest. He answers yes and is told to feed Jesus’ sheep. Why on earth would you tell a fisherman to do the work of a farmer? Peter asks nothing about this odd command though. This exchange happens three times and finally Peter who has previously denied Christ three times is redeemed, stating: Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you. I can almost hear the hurt and remorse in his voice. I recognize my own sinfulness and need for healing in these words. Yes, I have messed up, Lord, but it was never because I did not love you – I have always loved you. You know that. Sure enough, Jesus knows this.
Jesus does not give Peter a gentle affirmation. Instead he responds mysteriously with the farmer image to the fisherman and adds that he will go where he does not wish to go, predicting the kind of death he will encounter we are told. Someone else will fasten a belt around him and take him where he does not want to be. With that, he invites Peter to follow him. I might have been confused if I were Peter and yet, here was Jesus, crucified, buried and rise , standing before him after breaking bread together letting him in on his own future. The information is not sufficient as a blue print for what is to come but it is a forewarning that must have stayed with Peter for the rest of his days as this fisherman began to feed sheep. I know I return often to my encounter with the Divine at the tomb of St. Clare and hold the meaning of it lightly. I do not really know what it means but the Risen Lord is someone I trust. Like Peter, I will follow.
Do you love the Lord?
Where might you not want to be fastened and led?
Jesus, fasten me and lead me to where I must go. You know that I love you, Lord, and I will feed your sheep. Amen.