Although John’s Gospel appeared to reach its climax last Sunday when, in Jerusalem, the risen Jesus praised the faith that requires no physical proof, an entire chapter follows that is dedicated to Jesus’ manifesting himself by the Sea of Galilee. Peter appears at the center of interest within the lection (John 21:1-19), so that he can be restored as a representative of Jesus after he had denied his association with Jesus on the way to the Crucifixion. As Peter’s denial occurred three times, so Jesus presses Peter three times as he gives him the care of his flock. The setting of a meal and a miraculous catch of fish alludes to the Eucharistic context in which the account finds its natural place. The reading from Acts recounts Paul’s first encounter with Jesus in a manner that presents the Resurrection along the lines of a call of a prophet, while Revelation 5:11-14 presents the living Jesus in an unmistakably visionary and prophetic way.
The First Reading
Acts 9:1–6 [7-20]
Saul’s Vision of the Risen Jesus
While traveling to Damascus to persecute those in the community known as the Way of Jesus by arresting some of the them, Saul has a vision. In a flash of light, he hears the voice of Jesus confronting him for his efforts at persecution. The appearance of Jesus leaves Saul blind and in need of assistance. Then in a vision Jesus directs Ananias, one of his committed students, to lay hands on Saul to return his sight. The regaining of his physical sight parallels Saul’s new insight and call—with his name significantly changed to Paul—as God’s instrument to proclaim the name of Jesus.
Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the committed students of the Lord, went to the High Priest and requested letters from him to the synagogues in Damascus for the purpose that, if he found anyone belonging to the Way, men and even women, he could tie them up and lead them to Jerusalem. Now as he was going, he came near to Damascus, and suddenly a light flashed around him from heaven. As he fell to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you chasing me down?” So he asked, “Master, who are you?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are chasing. Even so, get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
[The men traveling with Saul stood speechless, because they heard something but saw no one. Saul rose up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he saw nothing. So, they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. For three days he couldn’t see, and he neither ate nor drank. Now, there was a certain committed student in Damascus named Ananias, and the Lord spoke to him in a vision: “Ananias.” He said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and in the house of Judas look for a man named Saul from Tarsus. He is praying, and he envisions a man named Ananias coming in and laying hands on him so that he will see again.” But Ananias said, “Lord, I heard from many about this man, about how much harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. Even here, he has authority from the high priests to arrest all of those who call upon your name.” Still, the Lord said to him, “Go. This man is a chosen instrument for my purpose to carry my name before both nations and kings and the people of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” So Ananias left and went into the house. He laid hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you came, has sent me so that you can see again and be filled with the holy Spirit. Then immediately something like scales fell from his eyes. He both regained his sight and arose to be immersed for cleansing; then, taking food, he was strengthened. He then stayed some days with the committed students in Damascus and immediately was proclaiming Jesus in the synagogues: “He is the Son of God.”]
A Psalm of Thanks for Healing
The theme of God’s healing and having metaphorically lifted the psalmist from the grave accounts for its relevance and expressive power in describing the context of divine salvation that explains Jesus’ own resurrection.
- I will exalt you, Lord, for you have drawn me up
and did not let my enemies rejoice over me.
- Lord, my God, I cried out to you and you healed me.
- Lord, you lifted me from the grave;
you kept me in life, away from those who go down to the Pit.
- Praise the Lord in song, God’s faithful;
give thanks to God’s holy name.
- For God’s anger lasts but a moment,
while God’s favor lasts a lifetime.
Crying endures only a night,
but joy appears with the morning.
- As for me, I said with confidence, “I shall never be shaken.”
- Lord, in accordance with your will,
you established me as a strong mountain.
You hid your face!
I was disquieted!
- To you, Lord, I called out.
From my Lord I sought favor.
- What profit is there in my blood,
in my descent into the Pit?
Will the dust thank you?
Will it tell of your truth?
- Hear, Lord, and be compassionate with me!
Lord! Be my help!
- You turned my wailing into jubilant dance;
you removed my sackcloth and clothed me in joy.
- So that my heart might sing your praises and not be silent,
Lord, my God, I shall thank you forever.
The Second Reading
A Vision of the Lamb and God’s Throne
The context of this passage is John’s vision of a book at the right hand of God, sealed up with seven seals (Revelation 5:1-5). An elder by the Throne assures John of Patmos that the lion of the tribe of Judah has triumphed, so that he is able to open the seals. The “lion” of whom the elder speaks, however, appears in the midst of the Throne as a Lamb, which seems to have been slain. The living creatures and elders take up a song in his praise (5:6-10). He is worthy to open the seals because he has been slain and has presented a people to God. The song dedicated to the Lamb echoes throughout heaven and earth.
I saw, and I heard—the sound
of many divine messengers around the Throne
and the living animals and the elders.
And their number reached myriads upon myriads, thousands upon thousands; they said in a thunderous voice:
Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
to take power and wealth and wisdom
and strength and honor and glory and blessing.
Every single creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, indeed all that is in them—these I heard saying:
To the one who is seated upon the Throne and to the Lamb
belong blessing and honor and glory and power forever.
And the four living animals said, “Amen,” and the elders bowed low and worshipped.
Jesus Appears by the Sea of Tiberias
John’s Gospel carries the story beyond the Resurrection in a scene that alludes richly to both Christ’s presence in the Eucharist and the church’s mission to become a community of faith and mutual care. The three denials by Rock—Peter—about even knowing Jesus find their counterpart in three affirmations of love and loyalty. The risen Master elicits these affirmations through probing questions, leading to the mandate that Peter care for those gathered in Jesus’ name, as God’s flock.
Later Jesus revealed himself again to the committed students by the Sea of Tiberias, and he appeared in this way: Simon Rock—Peter—and Thomas called Twin and Nathaniel from Cana of Galilee and the Zebedees and two others of his students were together. Simon Rock said to them, “I am going to fish.” They said to him, “We are going along with you.” They went out and got on board the boat, and that night they caught nothing. But by this time, as it became early, Jesus stood by the shore, although the students did not know that it was Jesus. So Jesus said to them, “Children, don’t you have any food?” They answered him, “No.” But he said to them, “Throw the net to the right of the boat, and you will find fish.” So they threw it, and because of the quantity of fish caught they weren’t strong enough to haul the net by hand. So, that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Rock, “It is the Master.” Simon Rock, hearing that it was the Master, then tied his overgarment around himself, because he was naked, and threw himself into the sea. The other students came in the boat, because they were not far from the land—only about a hundred yards—dragging the net of fish. When they got off on the land they saw a charcoal fire set and fish arranged and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring in from the fish you now caught.” So Simon Rock went up and hauled the net onto the land full of big fish—153—and although there were so many the net did not split. Jesus said to them, “Come on, eat breakfast.” But none of the students dared to confirm with him—“Who are you?”—knowing that he was the Master. Jesus came and took the bread and gave to them, and then gave the fish in the same way. This was already the third time Jesus was revealed to the students, raised from the dead. When they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Rock, “Simon of John, do you love me more than anyone?” He said to him, “Yes, Master: you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Herd my lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Master: you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Shepherd my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon of John, do you love me?” Rock was grieved that he had said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Master, you know everything: you recognize that I love you.” He said to him, “Herd my sheep. Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were a youth, you tied your own clothes and walked where you wished, but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hand and another will tie you and carry you where you do not wish.” Saying this he signaled the sort of death by which he would glorify God. With that he said to him, “Follow me.”