There is a big difference in Peter in the Gospel and Peter in our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles today. As the Gospel story begins, we find Peter completely wounded by his past. He had denied his Lord, not once, but three times. Now that the crucifixion and resurrection has taken place, Peter is unsure as to where to go next. So he, and the disciples, return to what they knew best, they go fishing. Only they aren’t very successful at that either. “Children, have you caught anything?” Jesus asks. And the response is amazingly concise and honest for a bunch of fishermen: “No.” Whenever the disciples try to fish without Jesus, they catch exactly nothing, and this time is no exception.
Jesus does three very significant things for them in this story. First, he tells them to go fishing once again, and this time, they catch more than they can carry. Because their real catch will be just like that: many men and women for the kingdom of God. Second, he cooks breakfast for them. This is a foreshadowing of the Eucharistic meal that will nourish the disciples and their progeny throughout the ages, the same Eucharistic meal which nourishes us. Finally, he takes Peter aside and asks him if he loves him. Not just once, but three times. Peter denied his Lord three times, and the Lord gives him three opportunities to accept healing.
Having been healed and nourished, Jesus then sends Peter out on mission. We are never given any gift, most especially reconciliation, to keep just for ourselves. God gives us gifts in order that we might share them with others. Just as Peter was healed, so he was expected to go out and introduce others to the healing of Jesus Christ. We too, have been healed and nourished, and the expectation is there for us as well. We have been healed of our sins through a triple affirmation: Lord, have mercy; Christ have mercy; Lord have mercy. We are about to be nourished with the meal prepared for us by our Savior. And so we must go out and feed his sheep, take care of his lambs.
Peter changed a lot in two short readings. If the Gospel began by finding him frightened and unsure, the reading from Acts finds him confident and bold. The difference is the Holy Spirit, the One who gives witness with him. We have received the Holy Spirit too, those of us who have been baptized and have been confirmed. We can rely on the Spirit to give witness with us also. We might have to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name, but we can rejoice that we are fulfilling our ministry in the name of our Lord who feeds us and heals us.
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!