Updated: May 17
In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus appeared again to the disciples, this time at the Sea of Tiberias where a group of them were fishing but had yet to catch anything. There are two phrases here that resonate with me, Jesus showing himself and Jesus saying to Simon Peter, “Follow me.” Reminders to Simon and the other disciples that Jesus is still with them, even after the horrific event of his crucifixion, and their work continues by following Jesus out into the world. What does this story mean to us?
For me, there are times when I wish Jesus would show himself to me. Life gets hard sometimes and there are moments when stress gets high and there just doesn’t seem to be enough time to get everything done. I’d like to call out to God and get a message back saying that it is going to be ok! Whisper in my ear that I am on the right path…I am following you. We’ve talked about this in the Sunday forum. I’ve mentioned that there have been times in my life when I felt God was right there with me. Like someone standing behind me, I could sense that God was there. I wish I could sense God’s presence all the time, but I can’t, even though I know God is there. Most days we have to quiet ourselves and trust that God is moving within us to show us the way. Trust for some doesn’t come easy. Like Thomas, they must see it for themselves. “God, I will follow you. Just show me which direction to move in. Fill my nets with food. Fill my jars with wine.”
I’ve mentioned before about the amazing life of Mother Teresa, now Saint Teresa of Calcutta, who for more than 50 years, most of her life as a nun, doubted the existence of God. In one undated letter to her confessors, she wrote, “My God, I have no faith. I dare not utter the words and thoughts that crowd my heart, afraid to uncover them because of the blasphemy. If there be God, please forgive me. When I try to raise my thoughts to heaven, there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives and hurt my very soul. I am told God loves me, and yet the reality of darkness and coldness and emptiness is so great, nothing touches my soul.” My first thought reading that is…how remarkable! The voice of God was absent to her for so many years, yet she continued on the path of caring for the poor and needy. She said she had no faith, but, to me, her actions contradict this opinion. One must have faith or hope or love or something that gets us out of bed every day to keep on giving oneself for others. We may long for God’s voice to reach us…answer our prayers, but know we have what we need to find joy and happiness in this world. If we love, we will be loved. If we share, we will be shared with. I don’t need God to tell me this. I have experienced it. Mother Teresa experienced it, too. She poured everything of herself out into the people of Calcutta. She loved them and they loved her back. People around the world loved the work she did and the example she left.
I have to return to Simon Peter. I laugh at the lesson describing the actions he took upon hearing that the person on the beach was Jesus. The text says, “When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea.” First, it makes me laugh a little that he was naked and then put clothes on to jump into the sea. But also, I laugh at his enthusiasm of seeing the Lord and then jumping into the sea. You’d think he would run up to Jesus, excited to see the Lord again. No, he threw on some clothes and jumped into the sea. You be you, Simon! I do like the enthusiasm. There was no hesitation, no questioning. It's the Lord! He has shown himself to us again! How would we react to the Lord’s return to us? Maybe we wouldn’t throw ourselves into the sea, but I’d expect each of us to be a bit excited. When will Jesus show himself to us again? I wish I could tell you. All I can recommend is to be ready. When you pray are you also allowing time to listen for the voice of God? When you read a passage of scripture or a hymn, identify the words or phrases that jump off the page to you. How do those words meet you? Do certain words inspire you in your faith? How would we react to seeing Jesus again and then have him simply say to us, “Follow me.” Go where? What about all my stuff? I sometimes look around my house and wonder aloud, “How would it feel to just get rid of all this stuff and fully commit myself to being out there…with others I meet each day, people living on the streets as I pass by, and others who I might not even know if I’m too wrapped up in my own stuff. “Follow me.” What if our answer was Yes? I will drop my nets and follow you. I will put the concerns of others at least equal to my own.
As we go back out into the world today, let us imagine ourselves fishing in the sea or whatever activity we might engage with and find out where God is. Do we feel God’s presence? Does our faith tell us that he is there? Do we, like Mother Theresa, hear nothing and question the existence of God. I hope not. Trust in God. Trust that God’s love for us is not just here or there or anywhere else, but in here…in every fabric of our being. We wouldn’t be without God’s presence in all of it.
May the love of God and the peace of his presence be always with you, seen or unseen. Amen
 Scott Simon, “Mother Teresa’s Doubts,” Nashville Public Radio, August 25, 2007, https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=13947541#:~:text=I%20dare%20not%20utter%20the,and%20hurt%20my%20very%20soul.