Lectionary for the third Sunday of Easter, May 5, 2019
Once a month I meet with a Spiritual director in a Retreat House in New Jersey. I have been meeting regularly with Sister since 2015. Today as I was walking down the stairs from her office, I noticed a picture hanging in the stairway. It was a pretty rose-coloured, tiled word that said, REJOICE.
“That’s really pretty,” I said, “Is that new or have I just missed it?” Sister chuckled and said, “It’s been hanging there for three years.” REJOICE!
Sure, sometimes life gets really busy, and sometimes we are so focused on a means to an end or the task at hand that we miss the details, the messages, the very essence of the Holy Spirit that surround us. For three years I walked by a picture hanging on the wall focused on what I needed to accomplish, what I believed I needed to be present to. Seminary and papers, family, commuting, life’s obstacles and hurdles, challenges and transitions, indeed this was an exercise of human will caught in the cycle of busy.
Yes, busyness has its place in the birthing of beautiful creative expression, ideas, growth and expansion, but before this great birthing of abundance can occur; there is the breath, the breath that embodies the spirit of all life, all good things, the word. When we fail to listen to that breath, we take on our own will. We become distracted by our own fears, desires and tasks at hand. We get overwhelmed in a cycle of survival and we keep ourselves busy, numbing our way through the emotional fatigue of keeping up. Simply put, we miss God’s beautiful details. Like the lines in a face that tell a life’s story, or journeyed callouses of the hands that come beautifully outstretched with the desire to receive Christ. The details matter, for in the details there is the presence of God, but no less, we are human and living in the 21st century with all techno thing-ma-gigs that were supposed to ease our lives, but somehow only made them more busy, distracting from God, from God’s breath, from the very spirit of our Holy Trinity and our relationship within.
This is the third appearance that our Lord, Christ makes after the resurrection, and it is the third time that the disciples do not at first recognize him. Mary Magdalene mistook him for a gardener (John 20:11-18), then he appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus as a fellow traveler (Luke 24:13-21), and now here he is, a stranger on the shore of the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-13). In each of these cases, the disciples who saw the resurrected Jesus did not recognize him by his physical features, but by what he said and did. First came breath. “Children, you have no fish, have you?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” After the catch, Peter knew instantly it was Jesus and hurried back to shore as the others followed with the abundance of nourishing fish.
In this case, the disciples tried of their own will to cast out nets and make a catch but came up empty. The following day, though unsure, they listened to the word, the breath of God and were rewarded with great abundance.
Imagine if we were better listeners. How often are we so caught up in our own busyness that we fail to listen for the word, the spirit, the breath of our creator and redeemer, Christ? How often do our own minds chatter away with tasks, lists, ideas, and desires? I understand this in terms of survival, and football, and parenting, schoolwork and playgroups, deadlines and hockey games. I’ve raised two boys and kept real busy. It’s easy to miss the voice and direction of our God. Prayer is necessary for us to be obedient to God’s will.
The disciples did not recognize Jesus, but they knew it was him. They knew it was he because they had a relationship with Jesus. They loved him. We too are invited into relationship with Christ. The breath, the word, the will of our God awaits us, longs for us to lift up our hearts and give thanks and praise, to seek God in all things. When we release ourselves of distraction, bring our mind, body, and spirit into the presence of prayer, with no alternative motive, just LOVE, then we build and strengthen our relationship with Jesus. By reading scripture, having a rule of life and receiving the sacraments of our Holy Church we share in the celebration of grace bestowed upon us. Worshipping together we strengthen the fellowship of Love shared, uniting us as one body through the breaking of the bread and drinking from the cup.
As we come to the rail may we always remember the sacrifice Christ has made for us, knowing that we are tasked as Peter to Love onward without condition.
Feed, Tend, Feed and Rejoice!
Try not to let your heart be so distracted that you do not recognize the little things that lead you, guide you, direct you to the voice of God. Rejoice!
Lord Jesus Christ, help us to release ourselves and become the shepherds you seek for us to become among your creation; so your breath, your word, and your love, may be known to all people and that we in seeking to fulfil your will may rejoice in the resurrection through you, Christ our Lord. Amen