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A Scripture reflection for Third Sunday of the Easter

by Donald Senior, C.P. | May 4, 2019

A Scripture reflection for Third Sunday of the Easter

May 5, 2019



Reading 1: Acts 5: 27-32, 40B-41

Psalm 30: 2, 4, 5-6, 11-12, 13

Reading 2: Revelation 5: 11-14

Gospel: John 21: 1-19




Breakfast on the Shore


The Scripture readings for this Sunday continue the tone of exuberant joy just right for this time between Easter and Pentecost.


In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles we continue to hear about the dynamism and vitality of the early Christian community in Jerusalem, still highly charged with the gift of the Spirit in the wake of Jesus' resurrection. The religious authorities try to suppress the apostles' preaching about Jesus but to no avail: "We gave you strict orders, did we not, to stop teaching in that name (i.e., Jesus)?" But the apostles accept no restraints: "We must obey God rather than humans," Peter replies. The famous Quaker hymn comes to mind: "How can we keep from singing?" We know the feeling -- when we experience truly good news that fills us with joy, we have to tell the world...


The mood of the reading from Acts is brash and explosive; the mood of the Gospel selection from John is quite different but also filled with Easter joy. This is the story of the disciples' encounter with the Risen Christ on the shore of the Sea of Galilee found in chapter 21 of John's Gospel. Many interpreters have described this as something of an "appendix" to the gospel narrative -- the evangelist seems to conclude the Gospel at the end of chapter 20 with the appearance of the Risen Jesus to his disciples that we heard last Sunday. Appendix or not, this account matches John's style and is one of the most exquisite stories in the entire New Testament.


Several of Jesus' disciples, including Peter and the "Beloved disciple," are still confused and sad in the wake of Jesus' crucifixion. They have returned from Jerusalem to their home region of Galilee. Listless, Peter decides to go fishing -- his old profession. The other disciples join him, and they set out on a night of fishing, but, matching their mood, they catch nothing. Suddenly a mysterious figure on the shore calls out to them, "Children [the Greek word is an affectionate diminutive that could also be translated as "boys," or "lads"], have you caught anything?" A difficult question for those who have labored all night with nothing to show for it... "No" they reply. But the man on the shore directs them to put their nets down on the right side of the boat, and they do so...hauling in a catch so great that it threatened to sink their boat!


Abundance in the midst of scarcity. New life where none existed. Love that never fails. Suddenly they knew who this mysterious figure was although they could hardly dare to believe it. True to form, it is the Beloved Disciple who first recognizes Jesus, and it is the impulsive Peter who dives into the water and swims to meet Jesus on the shore!


But the beauty of this encounter is only beginning. Jesus is at work preparing breakfast for his disciples, with bread and some fish already on the grill. "Bring some of the fish you just caught," Jesus says and then serves the dumbfounded disciples breakfast. They ate, but their eyes and hearts were on their host -- none of them dared ask him who he was, the gospel says, "for they realized it was the Lord."


Jesus was not done yet...he turns to Peter and draws from him a three-fold declaration of his love: "Simon Peter, do you love me?" "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Each confession of his love heals in Peter the terrible memory of his threefold denial of his Master during the passion of Jesus. "Feed my lambs, feed my sheep." Not only forgiven and healed but commissioned to proclaim the Gospel and care for the community.


The readings this season remind us of who Jesus is and the spirit of his mission. In John's Gospel, this same Jesus who serves breakfast for his weary disciples had washed their feet on the eve of his own trial and death. Foot washing and feeding -- Jesus at work. Expressions of God's tender love for us and example of what it means to follow.

The above image is from the Public Domain.

Author information Donald Senior, C.P.

President Emeritus, Chancellor, Professor of New Testament Studies

Donald Senior, C.P., holds a Licentiate in theology (S.T.L.) from the University of Louvain, Belgium and a Doctorate in New Testament Studies (S.T.D.) from the University of Louvain. He has pursued further graduate studies at Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati, Ohio and at Harvard University. Fr. Senior served as President of CTU for 23 years, retiring in July 2013. On April 27, 2015, he was named Chancellor by the CTU Board of Trustees.

A frequent lecturer across the country, Fr. Senior also serves on numerous boards and commissions. He is past President of the Association of Theological Schools of the United States and Canada. In 2001, Pope John Paul II appointed him as a member of the Pontifical Biblical Commission and was reappointed in 2006 and 2008 by Pope Benedict XVI. He has been active in interreligious dialogue, particularly with the Jewish and Muslim communities.

Fr. Senior is the General Editor of The Bible Today and co-editor of the twenty-two volume international commentary series New Testament Message. He is the General Editor of The Catholic Study Bible (Oxford University Press, 1990). He has authored and edited several books and articles.

Donald Senior is a member of the following professional associations: The Catholic Biblical Association of America; The Society of Biblical Literature; Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas; The Chicago Society of Biblical Research; The Catholic Theological Society of America; The International Association of Missiological Studies; Pax Christi International.

He has served as an official representative to the Southern Baptist/Roman Catholic Scholars Dialogue, sponsored jointly by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Southern Baptist Convention. Fr. Senior just recently ended his term as President of the Association of Theological Schools of the United States and Canada. He is a member of the Board of Directors for Sadlier Publishing Company; the Board of Advisors of the Auburn Center for Theological Education; and the Advisory Committee of the Henry Luce III Fellowship program; and serves on the Executive Committee of the Association of Theological Schools of the United States and Canada. In 1994 he was awarded the Jerome Award for outstanding scholarship by the Catholic Library Association of America. In 1996, the National Catholic Education Association awarded him the Bishop Loras Lane Award for his outstanding contribution to theological education. He is a past President of the Catholic Biblical Association of America (1997-98).

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