Thursday, March 31, 2016

Easter Light

By Colleen O’Sullivan

When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize it was Jesus.  Jesus said to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?” They answered him, “No.”  So he said to them, Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.”  So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish.  So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter,” It is the Lord.”  (John 21:4-7a)

The Lord is God, and he has given us light.  (Psalm 118:27a)

It is night as the Gospel reading opens.  During the long, dark hours of night our uncertainties, doubts and fears often assail us.  The disciples are reeling from the events of recent days.  The teacher they have followed for several years really did leave them.  To be sure, he had said he needed to go and prepare a place for them, but no one knew what his words meant at the time.  He asked his friends to be with him in prayer the night he was seized, but in his hour of need, they all fell asleep.  Most of them abandoned Jesus once the soldiers took him into custody.  All this weighs heavily on Peter, who didn’t leave but is filled with shame at his own betrayal of the Lord.  How could he have denied knowing this man he dearly loved?  And should he be fortunate enough ever to meet Jesus face to face again, what can he say?  What words can he use to express the sorrow and regret he is carrying around?  What will Jesus say to him?  Overwhelmed by these thoughts, Peter seeks solace in the one thing he knows how to do - he goes fishing with several of the other disciples.  Even this is no comfort; they catch nothing.

But, as the skies begin to lighten toward dawn, a voice calls out from the shore, telling them to throw the net over the other side of the boat.  Instantly the net is full to overflowing.  The dark of night gives way to the glory of sunrise.  It is their Lord and friend Jesus!   He has a charcoal fire already going on the shore.  Together they grill some of the fish, and Jesus serves them bread and fish in a manner reminiscent of the feeding of the crowd earlier in John’s Gospel, a meal with the feel of Eucharist to it.  He gathers his friends and feeds them, not saying a word about who failed him or how.  There is nothing but love in his eyes.

The faint light from the charcoal fire and the early morning streaks of light in the sky are symbols of the glorious light of the Resurrection.  At the Easter Vigil, as the celebrant lights the paschal candle from the new fire, he prays: “May the light of Christ rising in glory dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds.”  The Easter message is that the Light of the World has forever vanquished the power of darkness.  In a world where dark spots abound, this is Good News!

Sunrise in Burke, VA
By permission of Liane Whalen Chang
Imagine that you are gathered around the charcoal fire eating with Jesus and his friends as a new day dawns.  What do you think Jesus would say to you?  What would you like to say to him?

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