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Today’s Gospel is one of my favorites. It is so detailed. We can almost smell the sea as Peter and his companions are fishing on it. We can almost see the colors of the sky as dawn breaks. We can hear the crackling of the charcoal fire that Jesus has prepared on shore. And we can certainly sense the excitement of Peter when he realizes that the risen Lord is appearing to him once again. He literally jumps out of the boat to swim to the Lord. Remember, that this all takes place as the sun begins to shine. Night is now over in so many ways!
Jesus asked Peter three times: “Do you love me?"
By the third time Jesus asked Peter the same question, we can see the disappointed look on Peter’s face.
To understand the Lord’s three-fold question, we must remember the earlier scene in the Gospel when Jesus was on trial, and Peter was near a different charcoal fire. Three people said to Peter that night (notice that it is night!), “You are one of Jesus’ friends, aren’t you?” And three times Peter said, “I don’t know him.” How dark was Peter’s denial?
Today, Jesus is doing what he came to do. He is restoring. He is forgiving Peter and reconciling him. He is being the dawn of a new day. From our perspective, we know that Peter’s threefold denial of Jesus needs to be undone by his threefold declaration of love, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Only love can overcome the darkness of denial.
That’s why we need to say it ourselves over and over again with Peter, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” We need to be reconciled each day to the Lord too! We need the dawn of a new day, every day.
And then we read that Jesus fed Peter.
There is no denying that the meal Jesus prepares is an allusion to the Mass. Fish is present — and fish has always been a symbol of Jesus. We see it on many a bumper sticker! Bread is also taken and shared — just like the Eucharistic bread at Mass, which his truly the risen Body and Blood of Jesus.
The Mass is the feast of our reconciliation. Before we approach the Lord of the altar, we should say to Jesus, “Lord, you know I love you.”
Then, as you receive Holy Communion, the very Body and Blood of our Lord, hear the voice of Jesus say to you, “Follow me.” And, then go. Go, wherever he leads you. Take his Gospel of forgiveness, reconciliation, peace, and joy with you into the world. The world needs the dawn of a new day too!