Have you ever wondered what it was like for the apostles and followers of Christ during the period of time we now call Eastertide, which begins with the Resurrection and concludes with Pentecost? First, they were struck by the most astounding event in human history in discovering that Christ had risen from the dead. It must have been such an extremely jubilant time, yet they were also left with the traumatizing memory of the crucifixion and the fear of what might be done to them as news of the Resurrection spread and panic set in among those who wanted that news silenced.
Amid this mix of jubilation and fear was a lingering question about what they should do, and that question would not be fully answered until Pentecost, when they were commissioned by God to evangelize the world. The roller coaster of emotions the apostles and followers of Christ must have experienced during that time is probably something most of us can relate to as we attempt to walk in their footsteps today.
One of the most beautiful moments that occurred after the Resurrection was when Jesus appeared to the apostles on a beach at the Sea of Galilee. The scene points to answers for questions we all have amid our own mix of emotions over the triumphs, failures and fears that life throws our way. The apostles had been fishing all night and caught nothing until daybreak, when a man called to them from the beach telling them to cast their net to the other side of the boat, at which point they caught so many fish they couldn’t haul it all in. Upon realizing the man on the beach was Jesus, Peter jumped out of the boat to hurry toward him.
Imagine the emotions Peter must have had rushing out of the water toward Christ on that beach. It must have been a bittersweet moment of joy mixed with the sorrow he probably still carried over his three denials before the crucifixion. Later, walking along the beach together, Christ asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” Each time, Peter answers that he does, until finally saying the third time, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
We’re told that Peter felt hurt to be asked a third time, and maybe that was partly because it reminded him of his previous denials. But it seems Jesus was also providing him with an opportunity to understand the redemption. Perhaps this was even Jesus’ way of emphasizing for Peter that he knows he loves him despite those previous denials because he gives him the chance to answer “yes” three times, almost as though to wash away the mistakes of the past. That conversation must have lingered with Peter as a stark reminder of the love of God and the confidence we must have that opportunities will always be provided for redemption.
This then is the ultimate message of the Resurrection, that we are redeemed every time we run to Christ with a spirit of reconciliation and hope in sharing his joy. This also answers the commission the Apostles were awaiting and received at Pentecost and that we have inherited as followers of Christ. We must constantly be at work healing the wounds of others through a spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation, providing opportunities wherever we can to open hearts to the transformative power of God’s love and having confidence those opportunities will always find us.
For a free copy of the Christopher News Note FINDING HOPE IN CHRIST’S RESURRECTION, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004, or email: . Fr. Dougherty is on the Christophers’ board of directors.
Maryknoll Father Edward M. Dougherty (CNS photo)