For the last 25-plus years that I have been helping couples prepare for their marriage, one of the “tips” I give them is to make memories together as they begin their new life as a couple.
Together with these memories, I tell them to always remember the moment when they realized that they were meant to spend their life as husband and wife. This is the original inspiration of marriage.
For their reflection, I suggest two points. From Scripture, the first “command” of the Risen Lord to his disciples, given through the women: “Tell my brothers to go back to Galilee and there they will see me.”
From literature, I propose the moment when the Little Prince, looking at hundreds of roses, discovers the uniqueness of his rose: “My rose… is more important than all of you together, since she’s the one I’ve watered… the one for whom I killed the caterpillars (except the two or three butterflies)… She’s the one I listened to when she complained, or when she boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing at all. Because she is my rose.”
When life makes sense
These reflections remind us of life-defining or life-changing moments—when everything seems to fall into place. These are moments when we feel a sense of wholeness and integrity in our life. Life makes sense. What we do day to day has meaning.
With the grace of the Resurrection, the disciples understood everything they shared with Christ in Galilee, where they were first called to follow Him, where they spent much time together eating drinking, praying, working, learning.
The story of the Little Prince and realizing the importance and uniqueness of his rose can be compared to another Resurrection narrative in Luke—the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus and how they came to understand the meaning of all that had been written about Christ. The moment of realization was made clear when they said, “Where not our hearts burning inside us while he spoke to us…” In a similar way, the Little Prince realizes “she is my rose.”
There are moments in our life when we come to this kind of realization. We catch a glimpse of life’s meaning and our mission, and with the certainty of faith we are inspired to pursue this mission.
On this Sunday’s Gospel (John 21: 1-19), we see Peter and his friends going back to their pre-Christ days, back to their work before Christ called them. It was back to business as usual, or so they thought.
‘Miracle’ of the catch
It is significant to reflect on the point that Christ, now the Risen Lord in today’s Gospel, meets Peter and company again where they started, in a very similar setting. In John as in Luke, the disciples were fishing the whole night and have not caught anything. There is also a parallel in Christ calling out to them but they don’t recognize him. Christ tells them in both instances to cast their nets again, and with this happens the “miracle” of the catch. Here end the similarities.
In Luke, Peter recognizes Christ and tells him, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” In John, John the beloved recognizes that “it is the Lord!” Then Peter swims to the Risen Lord.
While the Gospel that will be read today in most Masses is up to verse 14 only of John 21, the prescribed option can go up to verse 19. In verses 15 to 19 of John 21, we have the famous triple question of love that the Risen Lord asks Peter.
Peter and his relationship with Christ come full circle in this Resurrection narrative. Not only does Christ reissue the call in a similar setting, but he also “missions” Peter as the leader of the early Church. In the triple question of love, Christ grants Peter the grace to rise where he fell, to glorify him in his weakness. The triple question of love is Peter’s redemption from his triple denial of Christ during the Passion, when Christ needed him most.
In Luke, Peter was asked to be a “fisher of men.” In John, the mission becomes more defined, “Feed my lambs… Tend my sheep… ” The Peterine ministry is to preside in love and a love that cares for the flock, to attend to their needs and to satisfy their hunger—spiritually and physically.
We refer to Peter and his successors as the Vicars of Christ. In the seminary, we were told that we are all called to be another Christ in the world, that we are “alter Christus.” Thus we are also “missioned” to feed and tend Christ’s sheep.
In the April 15 issue of Time magazine, the cover story is about the evangelical churches that grew out of Latin America and how these churches are fast spreading in North America and in the United States. It is an inspiring and challenging message to us, the members of the Catholic Church.
Sense of belonging
It is inspiring in how the evangelical churches are able to respond to the needs of the people, immigrants who have left home in search of a better life. They respond to almost every need they have and thus give them a sense of belonging to a community, as the church should be.
It is inspiring as we see in these stories the mission to love, to tend to and feed the sheep. It becomes one community where the varied hungers are met—the physical, the affective, the spiritual.
I invite you to go back to the moment of your original inspiration when you first sensed what your mission is, when you first caught a glimpse of the larger-than-life dream for which you took your journey and dedicated your life to it. Remember this moment and renew the inspiration.
Jungian writer Robert Johnson, in his book “The Fisher King and the Handless Maiden,” says: “Fate is kind and allows us two chances in life when the veil between consciousness and the unconscious grows thin. One of these is in mid-adolescence when one is gratuitously allowed to see a great vision, and the other is in midlife when he/she has a second chance to touch the visionary life if he/she has earned the right… The meaning of life is not in the quest for one’s own power or enhancement but lies in the service of that which is greater than one’s self.”
Easter is a graced season to “go back to Galilee,” to go back to moments when we were inspired to live a life of meaning and a life of service. It is a graced season to come full circle and renew the call to follow Christ, to be his companions in mission.
Easter is a special time of remembering our Risen Lord, that our faith is a Resurrection faith. May it give us the same grace expressed in the words of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, “Where not our hearts burning inside us while he spoke to us…”