Historical-critical scholars and poetic theologians can more deeply examine the post-Resurrection appearances of the Lord. The intuitions of pious lay persons, narrowly educated, if they are accidently published even in character-limited articles like this one, should have a warning sign: “Proceed with analytic caution: the following intuition is a genre of personal prayer.” The pious should know their limits and proceed modestly:
The scene of next Sunday’s Gospel reading is intimate. Seven of the Lord’s disciples are fishing in Simon Peter’s boat. Jesus is on the beach, gathering wood, then calls out to his back-to-their-safer-work disciples to join him for breakfast. The young fisherman whom Jesus loves recognizes His teacher’s face: “It is the Lord”. Peter jumps into the water aware he won’t walk on it ever again after his betrayal of his Lord at trial. Wet, anxious, intimidated, he faces the Master who does not raise his head in greeting: he bends over the fire, letting Simon dread this moment when, like the fish, his own wriggling devotion to the Lord will face a grill.
But the supper of bread and fish, made sacred by the Lord’s service, is first. Only then does Jesus ask his lead disciple to come away from the others and join him at the water’s edge. As Jesus stares out at the lake’s horizon, his inquiry begins: “Simon, do you love me?” The disciple humbly averts his eyes to the sand, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you”. “Then, feed my sheep.” Peter’s face meets Jesus’ eyes as the question is posed again. After yet a third time for emphasis, the question invites Peter to gaze with Jesus on the lake’s horizon. “Follow me: feed the flock.”
The path of Christian discipleship is humble hospitality in imitation of the Risen Lord’s mentoring Simon Peter once again in service to neighbors in this important tag-on episode at the end of John’s Gospel. The Church is most intimate to us when we recognize the Church in the faces we gaze upon intimately every day, the faces accompanying ours as we share the sacrament of precious time.
In our intercessory prayers and deeds of service for our intimates, for our extended families, for the people we work with, for the children of others, we are forming an inter-net of truth, goodness, and beauty through which we are becoming in reality One Body in Christ. Through every act of mutual service, we weave the inter-net of the Church into a deeper and more complex communion. We form through service a website for the Church where we post God’s Word to the world every day.
We must live with the mystery that the one chance others will ever have to see God’s face, while they live in this dimension of waiting for the Face of our Lord, is seeing God’s face reflected in our own. Until the Parousia we are left in one another’s hands not only just to live, but to taste a portion of that Love that will one day raise us from the dead.
By Jonathan Montaldo