Acts 5: 27-32, 40-41; Rv 5:11-14; John 21:1-19.

Here are some stones I have overturned to see what ideas are underneath. I hope you can grab hold of something, pull -- and discover that it has some homiletic roots for you.

An image might be able to preach for you this week in regard to responses from Peter in two gospel stories and the question Jesus poses to Peter in the Gospel of John this week. First let us examine the comparison of responses. Second let us consider the question of Jesus.

An interesting comparison can be made between two stories that appear as bookends in the Gospels. Although these stories do not come from the same Gospel, one might make the case that when comparing them it is clear that Peter has grown over the years that he has spent with Jesus in regard to an appropriate response to the power and love of Jesus in his life.

In short, the first response is -- Depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.The second response is an excited leap into a lake so that he can greet Jesus at the shore. Is Peter any more worthy to greet Jesus this second time -- having recently denied him 3 times? Probably not. However, the difference is that Peter truly loves Jesus, and this love supersedes the darkness that can blind and paralyze.

Let us briefly look at the comparisons in Luke and John:

Luke 5:4 Jesus said to Simon, Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch. John 21:6 So Jesus said to them, Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.

Luke 5:5 Simon said in reply, Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets. John 21:3 So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Luke 5:6-7 When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that they were in danger of sinking. John 21:7 So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish.

Luke 5:8-9 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man. For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him. John 21:7 So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, It is the Lord. When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad, and jumped into the sea.

The first response from Peter was to lower his eyes, turn away and profess his brokenness -- his unworthiness. His second response is simply filled with joy, love and excitement.

Let us now look at the question Jesus poses to Peter -- Do you love me more than these? (the second and third time simply -- Do you love me?)

It is important to consider this question in regard to our spiritual growth and to see how it also may play out in the development of Peter

Jesus does not ask -- Will you ever sin again? Jesus does not ask -- Will you ever be afraid again? Jesus does not ask -- Do you promise that you will never fall on your face again in the midst of fear, darkness and danger?

Rather, Jesus asks Peter -- Do you love me more than these? What does -- these -- refer to here? Perhaps Jesus is pointing to the former livelihood of Peter -- his fishing equipment: boats, nets, ropes, sails, etc. Perhaps Jesus is asking Peter -- Will you just slip back into what you think you know and do best in this world, or will you continue to be a fisher of men for me? Perhaps Jesus is pointing to the old fishing partners of Peter -- the sons of Zebedee -- and the other disciples who seem content to follow Peter wherever he may decide to go next.

Regardless of what -- these -- refers to, what is important to Jesus is love, not the unachievable promise of human perfection and sinlessness. Jesus knows that saying YES to love is a faster track to holiness than constantly saying NO to sin and darkness. Both may lead to holiness, but saying YES to love makes for a more enjoyable ride there. St. Augustine said -- Love and do what you will. In other words, the love for Jesus and for neighbor will naturally lead to a moral and spiritually fulfilling life.

Perhaps Peter knows even more than that first time he met Jesus that he is a sinful man and not worthy to be in the company of Jesus; however the difference after a few years with Jesus and after experiencing his glorious resurrection is that Peter swims excitedly to Jesus rather than asking Jesus to depart. Perhaps this is a good weekend to preach that message. Where are we in our lives? Do we have a relationship with Jesus in order that we may love him? If we do not, how do we get that relationship (lots of prayer, reception of Eucharist, works of charity, scripture study, spiritual reading, etc.)? Are we inclined to turn away or swim excitedly to Jesus? Are there things in our lives that Jesus may point to and say -- Do you love me more than these? Does the joy of the risen Christ and our relationship with him first and foremost cause us to love? Do we spend too much time obsessing over the NOÕs of sin and darkness rather than achieving the same end of holiness with YESÕs to love?

Blessed Preaching!

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