I Am Going Fishing

(Homily for Third Sunday of Easter - Year C)

Bottom line: After Jesus' resurrection, we notice a change in Peter: Instead of impulsive, reckless behavior, we see him making a focused decision and sticking with it.

Many of us, I am sure, had the same feelings this week. It was heartbreaking to see the pictures of those young people murdered on Monday and to think about their parents, grandparents and other relatives who loved them. Their parents made sacrifices so they could have opportunities to learn, to have a good future. They wanted the best for their children. On Monday morning all those dreams came to a horrible end. We pray for those who mourn the loss of their loved one. Likewise, we pray for those who died - including they man who committed the crimes - that God will grant them mercy.

There is something else here. Something we need to remember. When a great tragedy happens, Jesus reminds us that it is a call to repentance - for all of us. The thirty-two students and teachers who were killed did not wake up thinking it was their last day on this earth. None of us know when or how we will die. Today is the opportune moment to repent.

The Gospel we just listened to is a call to repentance. That call is obvious in Jesus asking Peter three times if he loves him. But there is something more subtle in the first part of the Gospel. We get an indication today how Jesus' resurrection changed Peter. Before the resurrection Peter tended to act in an impulsive - sometimes reckless - manner. For example, in the face of Roman guards, he drew a sword, but missed his target. He wound up cutting off a civilian's ear. Bishop Sheen observed: As a sword fighter, Peter was a good fisherman.

After the resurrection Peter was different. Not that his fencing skills improved. And, thank God, he did not lose his spontaneity. But now he is more focused. We see him taking a direct, positive decision - and sticking with it. He doesn't perform some dramatic gesture, but he does something simple and natural. "I am going fishing." He says. For Peter fishing was not a sport like it would be for many of us. It was his livelihood. Still, we see a man who did not rest on his laurels - or lick his wounds. He took a simple, direct action. "I am going fishing." Apparently Peter was a natural leader because the other six men responded, "We also will go with you."

Now, Peter not only made a decision and inspired others to follow him; he stuck with it when things got a difficult. They kept fishing all night, even though they caught nothing. You can imagine the complaining. "We're tired. It's cold out here. I need some sleep. I don't know about you, but I've got things to do tomorrow." Whatever the complaints, Peter kept at it - and he somehow got the others to do the same.

There is a lot in today's Gospel for you and me. At least I will speak for myself. How hard it is to set a course - and to stick with it! How easy to fall into escapism, especially in our current culture!

Someone once told me that when she feels bad, she goes to the mall. Shopping picks up her mood. It makes her feel better. But it only lasts for a while. When she finishes, she feels worse - especially when she sees the credit card bill. She feels so bummed out...she wants to head back to the mall. Her closet is packed with dresses she never wears, but she likes the feeling that comes from buying a new one.

All of us know what it is like to get on a downward spiral: shopping, drinking, overeating, surfing the net - or just becoming that well-rounded couch potato. I once got addicted to a computer Cribbage game. For all the time I wasted, I could have read the collected works of Thomas Aquinas.*

The example of St. Peter indicates a way out of dead-end thinking and self-destructive behavior. Take a direct positive action and stick with it. It might be something as simple as the decision to attend Mass every Sunday. Other things might seem much more attractive, especially if one fears interacting with certain people. But going to Mass is a positive, direct action. The graces received will have their effect in due time.

One of the things I sometimes do is to make a list, then look it over to see what is the most difficult. What am I most reluctant to do? Once I had been putting off dealing with a certain situation. It was on my to-do list, but I dreaded it. Finally, I stopped fretting and just did it. It was like turning on cold water at the end of shower. It felt great afterwards! I want to be more like Peter: "I'm going fishing."

By way of conclusion, I'd like to put before you a modern person of action: Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. All of us have heard about the work she did to care for the poorest of the poor. Her career began with a single action. She found a woman dying in the streets, partly eaten by rats. She took the woman to a nearby hospital, but the medical workers did not want to treat her. Mother Teresa kept insisting and they treated the woman. She then decided that she would find a place for the dying and take care of them.

Like St. Peter, Blessed Teresa was a person of action. There is an even deeper parallel. St. Peter kept at it, in spite of the cold, dark night. Since Mother Teresa's death, people have been amazed to learn that she faced a long, cold night. A writer named David Scott put it this way: "For nearly fifty year...Mother Teresa's prayer life was one of dark, pitiless silence. She lived her entire public life - all that time we saw her smiling and talking about joy - panicked that God had rejected her, or worse, that he was out there in the dark hiding from her."

Like St. Peter, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta put her trust in the Lord - and left the results in his hand. The Lord gave Peter - and his crew - a great catch of fish and the promise they would bring in an even greater harvest of souls. Mother Teresa founded the most remarkable religious order of the twentieth century - and inspired a deep renewal among Christians. You and I may not do such impressive deeds, but we can take a step today. As Peter said, "I am going fishing."


*An exaggeration. I don't know anyone who has read even half of Aquinas' writings. Still, with the time I wasted on that game, I could have made a good start.

Spanish Version

From Archives (Third Sunday of Easter, Cycle C):

2016: First Priority
2013: Tend My Sheep
2010: The Readiness is All
2007: I Am Going Fishing
2004: Obey God Rather Than Men
2001: Do You Love Me?
1998: Keeping the Boat in Good Condition

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Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

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