This week's reflection is written by
Rev. Matthew J. Hillyard, OSFS
On Easter Sunday, we walk with Mary Magdalene to the tomb where she is the first to witness the risen Lord. She is the “apostle to the apostles” as she is entrusted to take that message to them. The second Sunday of Easter it is Thomas who is our guide. Forever known as the “doubter,” Jesus encounters him in his doubt and leads him to the most profound affirmation of who Jesus is, “My Lord and my God.” On the third Sunday of Easter, we meet Jesus with Peter. The disciples were fishing, and Jesus tells them to cast their nets and they catch a huge number of fish. Jesus is on the beach cooking them breakfast. It was cooked on a charcoal fire. After breakfast, Jesus spoke with Peter. It was the second fire for Peter. On Holy Thursday, Peter warmed his hands at a fire. At that fire, he denied Jesus three times. It was a fire of fear, denial, guilt and shame.
Jesus’ fire is a different fire. It is a fire of new life, forgiveness, mercy and future possibilities. At this fire, Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves Him. Each time, Peter responds, “yes.” Yet, when Jesus asks him the third time, Peter is in distress. His memory must return him to the other fire. Yet, Jesus will not leave him at the first fire. Jesus simply tells him to feed, tend and love God’s people. The risen Lord will not allow the disciples to live in guilt, fear, shame and the painful memory of their abandonment of the Lord. Jesus invites them to the fire of new life. Forgiveness does not erase or change the past; it does open the possibility of a larger future.
We all have weak moments where words were said or actions done that we would like to take back or change. Our shame, guilt and fear are very real. We have the ability to stay at that first fire and warm ourselves in self-loathing or the invitation to move to the fire of mercy, love and new life and warm ourselves there. With that warmth we are called to tend to God’s people in a similar way. I hope we choose the second fire. The first one is not worth the heat it provides.