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Sunday Scripture: Forgiveness from the Risen Lord

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

By Father Timothy Schehr

Third Sunday of Easter: Acts 5:27-41; Revelation 5:11-14; John 21:1-19

In last Sunday’s Gospel Thomas the Apostle experienced firsthand the forgiveness of the Risen Lord. In this Sunday’s Gospel it is Peter’s turn to experience forgiveness from the Risen Lord.

The last time we saw Peter in John’s Gospel, he had denied the Lord three times, first at the door leading into the high priest’s courtyard, then twice more while warming himself by a charcoal fire. Now by a charcoal fire on the shore of the sea, Peter has the chance to affirm three times his love for the Lord.

But let’s back up to the beginning of the account, where we find Peter in very interesting company. He is with a group that included Thomas, Nathaniel and the sons of Zebedee.
 
We do not know what they were talking about as they stood of the shore of the Sea of Tiberias. But we do know that Thomas had doubted the Lord and was given the chance to declare his faith. We know that Nathaniel had dismissed the notion of anything good coming from Nazareth and then recanted by declaring that Jesus was Son of God and King of Israel.
 
And we know that the sons of Zebedee sought special privileges from Jesus only to hear Him speak about finding greatness in service to others.

It seems likely this group of apostles was now trying to convince Peter that like them he, too, would have the chance to make up for the mistakes he made. What loyal friends!
 
Peter announces that he is going out to fish. Is he planning to return to the trade he knew before Jesus came into this life? Or is he hoping to meet Jesus once again on the waters of the sea? The other apostles insist on going with Peter. They now love one another as Jesus had loved them — by doing all they can to nourish faith in each other.

Suddenly the Lord is calling out to them from the shore. The beloved disciple, the very one who had brought Peter to the high priest’s courtyard and probably overheard his denials, announces that the Lord has come. Peter has his chance for restoration just as they said.
 
Peter rushes across the water towards the Lord, leaving the rest in the boat. The Lord has come to give him another chance, and he is ready to accept it. The Lord’s triple questioning makes Peter uneasy. But it is important for Peter to know that the Lord has completely forgiven him for his triple denials.

And what now? Peter is privileged to tend and feed the Lord’s flock. As He had said earlier, Jesus is the gate for the sheep (John 10:7). Peter passes through that gate and cares for the sheep.
 
Peter also discovers from the Lord that he will glorify God by surrendering his life for the faith. When he hears Jesus say “follow me,” he already has full knowledge of what it will mean for him.

In  the first and second readings we see the apostles fully engaged in the Lord’s work. Peter stands before the high court, boldly announcing that he and the others must obey God rather than men. In the second reading John is witness to a heavenly vision. He sees a countless number of God’s heavenly servants declaring the Lamb of God worthy to open the scroll with the seven seals.

Father Schehr is a faculty member at the Athenaeum of Ohio.

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