COME AND DINE
When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish that you have just caught." So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, "Come and dine." Now none of the disciples dared ask him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord. John 21:9-13
WHEN Jesus asked the disciples if they had caught any fish he was not seeking information. Instead he was revealing himself to them. Peter as usual was rather slow, but John got it right away! He was there when Jesus and Peter first met, when the Lord gave them a miraculous catch of fish, and when he said to Peter: don't be afraid, from now on you will be catching men. John was there, he remembered, so he could not help but proclaim from the boat, which represents the church: it is the LORD! We can do the same! As often as as the gospel is taught and the sacraments are given we too can joyfully say: it is the LORD!
Of first importance, both then and now, is the Lord's invitation to "come and dine." For the reason that all men are by nature sinful and unclean, because we are born blind to the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, we remain forever dead in our sins unless the Lord draws us to himself, and draw us he does! From the cross he conquered sin and Satan, drew the whole world to himself, and from the font he called us to be his children for time and eternity. Now we are his. We belong to Jesus, and no one can ever snatch us from the Father's hand.
Not only does Jesus draw us to himself on the cross and in baptism, but he also invites us to his altar to dine on the Bread of Life. He asked the disciples if they had caught any fish but he was not reliant on them. He was not dependent on their offerings. When they came ashore they found a charcoal fire already in place, with fish already roasting, and bread which reminds us of the Eucharist was already there. This is how things still work today. The church serves the meal, but it is supplied, prepared and made holy and powerful to save us from death by the risen Lord himself.
We also learn from this incident that the Lord asked the disciples to bring some of the bounty that they took in. Peter, in typical Peter fashion, once again over-reacts. He ran to the boat, and with super-human strength brought the whole catch to Jesus, 153 large fish! His fervor is admirable. May we, too, love God with all of our strength, may we serve Him with such glad and willing hearts as demonstrated by Peter that day. May we also learn the lessons this incident teaches us; to always remember that God is our creator and provider, and that we are His creatures. We are dependant on Him for everything, nothing is excepted. We cannot live for a single moment apart from His tender mercies, which thankfully are new every morning.
God's people have always marked this truth by bringing the first portion of their bounty to Him, not because He needs anything from us, but as a sign of recognition of His mercies, and as a token of our praise and thanksgiving. The person who does not acknowledge God, who thinks that every good and perfect gift comes from his own ingenuity, from mother earth or from the supply chain devised by the brilliance of men, that person is a fool who says in his heart: there is no God!
Could we forget God like that, and become ungrateful? We could, but because his mercy endures forever, God keeps us in the one true faith. We have a powerful ally in this matter, the prayer we pray before putting a morsel of food into our mouths. What makes it so powerful? First it is the Word of God, and there is nothing mightier than that! Also, as often as we stop to pray before we eat, our scattered thoughts, which are devoted all the day long to keeping our heads above water, are gathered. They are gathered and directed to our God, who is our joy, and from whom all blessings flow.
We learn the same lesson from the church's ritual of bringing the offering to the altar. Because we no longer live close to the land the gifts come in the form of currency rather than bread and wine. None the less we are doing what Peter did that day at the Lord's behest, and like the disciples had done earlier when they brought five loaves and two fish to the Lord to answer the crying need of thousands of hungry people. They brought them to Jesus with this doubtful question: but what are they among so many? We know the answer, we know that where God blesses there can be no want. Not only do we know it, but we see it played each Sunday when our Lord distributes his inexhaustible flesh and blood for the dissolution of our sins and to assure us of his never-ending love. It is nourishment we cannot live without. How any church can omit it, or any person can stay away, is a mystery.
After St. Paul was converted while on the road to Damascus he fasted for three days, but when the days were over he ate food, and was strengthened for the work he would be given to do. Each of us is given work to do by God as well, we call it our vocation. To carry it out in a God pleasing way and to find fulfillment in it, we need nourishment and we need strength. Where does it come from? It comes from Jesus, through the church, from the Word and the blessed sacraments He gives. These are the sources of our power to stay focused on our God, to fight temptation, to stand tall as Christian men and women, and to serve our Lord with gladness. Amen.
~ Rev. Dean Kavouras