Sometimes ‘doing Lectio’ can be very engaging from an imaginative perspective … which can lead to great depth, and very honest conversation with the Lord.
The beginning of the Gospel caught my imagination in this Sunday’s Gospel.  It is interesting that St John named five of the seven who were with Peter by the lake of Tiberias, when he got up and said he was going fishing.  Who were the (unnamed) ‘two others’?  And what if I put myself in amongst them as one of the two?  What might the conversation have been?  If I had had the chance to ask a question or to direct the conversation, what would I have said?

You see, a little flight of the imagination, but what it led to was quite absorbing, and instructive … and challenging, as almost all Lectiois.

Here were seven men, who had gone about with Jesus, listened to His teaching and been attracted by the truth He taught; captivated by the hope He was holding out to them of what it meant really to be human and even the fact that they were sons of the Father and destined for an eternity of communion with God in heaven.

And yet, at that moment in time when Jesus most needed the support of their faith in Him, Peter had denied Him three times … but he was not the only one to do so … Jesus had foretold that they would all fall away (Mt 26:31), and indeed they did – spectacularly, if we are to follow Mark’s account (Mk 14:52). 

Maybe, then, they were gathered together, all of them understanding Peter’s sense of having let Jesus down, because they were all equally guilty of having deserted Him to save themselves. 

Jesus hade already manifested Himself to them on two previous occasions, according to St John, yet here they now were, seemingly aimless and waiting; maybe confused?  not quite understanding what all the recent events meant for them?  what were they supposed to do next?  How were they to proclaim and to preach the Gospel and ask people to repent and believe in Jesus, when they had so badly failed Him?  How could their preaching be authentic and true, when they had for a moment turned from it?

A question I thought I might ask, would be something along this train of thought:

“How do you know if you love Jesus, if it is so easy to betray Him?”

What form might the conversation have taken? 

Peter must certainly have felt it: he had been so vehement in asserting the strength of his commitment to Jesus that he said he would go even to death with Him (Lk 22:33).  “And so said all the disciples” (Mt 26:35).

This is the year of mercy, and it seemed that on asking such a question, the response would be one of mutual upbuilding on one level – seeking to encourage one another that their joy at His resurrection now, and their sorrow for having failed Him, must mean something.  Though they had shown themselves that their love had been rather fickle, still it wasn’t lacking; and their desire to be faithful now must count for something too.  The fact that He had shown Himself to them must restore their hope, and give them reason to believe that He would not forsake them, though they had forsaken Him.

In their being together, I think, while they may not have been able to answer the question with conviction, at least they were together.  They could talk about Jesus; remember Him; and together try to work out what it all meant: His breathing the Holy Spirit upon them, giving them the power to forgive sin.  Their whole lives had been turned upside-down by Jesus, and they understood somehow that life could never be the same again; but how must they now live?  How could they recover from their betrayal?  What were they to do and how were they to live?

And in the ordinary simplicity of ‘going fishing,’ Jesus came to them again.  He was after all the only one who could reassure them that He did indeed believe in their love for Him and that they in turn must not doubt it.  Through His forgiveness, He set them free to love Him more faithfully, more deeply, more truly.  And through their acceptance of His mercy, their confidence and hope was restored, and they were enabled after all to lay down their lives for Him (cf Jn 13:37).

There may be a powerful message here for us; for we are not so perfect as to be certain of our unfailing fidelity to God.  Our very tendency to sin is a fair witness to this fact; and it is possible in a world where faith is not held to be a virtue, to lose hope and to allow our failures to dictate the strength (or lack thereof) of our commitment.  It’s easier to fall away and to give up; to stay lying in the dust (Ps 119:25) than to get back on your feet and risk falling again and again and again … …. and again.

But today’s Gospel seems to be one which tells of hope and seeks to strengthen us when we fall: as Jesus so often said, ‘Do not be afraid!’  So let us not be afraid, but embrace the mercy He offers to us at every moment; and let His mercy help us to deepen our faith in Him and in our love for Him, and let it increase in us, so that His light – the light of Christ may never be extinguished.