by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
April 14, 2013
The epilogue of the Gospel of John contains an account of the risen Christ's meeting with his disciples on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. When it was written, the Christians were experiencing hard times of trial and persecution -- some denied their faith. The narrator wants to revive the faith of his readers. Night is coming and the disciples go out to fish. The Twelve aren't there. The group was broken apart when their Master was crucified. They're back again with the boats and nets they had left to follow Jesus. It's all over. They're alone again.
The fishing expedition is a complete failure. The narrator strongly emphasizes it: "They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing." They come back with empty nets. Isn't that the experience of many Christian communities whose strength and evangelizing capability has been weakened?
Often, our efforts in the midst of an indifferent society barely bring any results. We too note that our nets are empty. The temptation to discouragement and despair is easy. How do we sustain and revive our faith?
In this context of failure, the story tells us that "when it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore." However, the disciples don't recognize him from the boat. Perhaps it's the distance, perhaps the dawn fog, and, above all, their saddened hearts that prevent them from seeing him. Jesus is talking to them, but "they didn't know it was Jesus."
Isn't this one of the most pernicious effects of the religious crisis we are going through? Preoccupied with survival, noticing our weakness more and more, it isn't easy for us to recognize the presence of the risen Christ among us, speaking to us from the Gospel and feeding us in the celebration of the Eucharistic supper.
The disciple most beloved by Jesus is the first to recognize him: "It is the Lord!" They aren't alone. Everything can begin again. Everything can be different. Humbly but faithfully, Peter will acknowledge his sin and admit his sincere love for Jesus: "Lord, you know that I love you." The other disciples couldn't feel any different.
In our Christian groups and communities, we need witnesses to Jesus. Believers who, through their lives and words, help us to discover in these times the living presence of Jesus in the midst of our experience of failure and fragility. We Christians will get out of this crisis, adding to our trust in Jesus. Today, we can't imagine his strength to get us out of despair and hopelessness.