Friday within the Octave of Easter
(Acts 4:1-12; John 21:1-14)
In every mass this week – actually from Monday to Sunday – the gospel tells of an appearance of the risen Jesus. Although the accounts bear marks of editorial expansion, they assure readers of the resurrection as a fact of history. The resurrection is a trans-historical event. This means that it has never been duplicated in history. But reliable witnesses testify that Jesus appeared to them in the flesh. Their stories, especially when considered in total, explain the empty tomb. Thus the stories go beyond circumstantial evidence for the resurrection.
Today’s gospel appearance takes place on the Sea of Tiberius. It may seem strange that Jesus’ disciples would return to their former occupations after seeing Jesus. After all, he equipped them with the Holy Spirit to forgive sins. Yet many people who have had profound religious experiences begin to question their beliefs. Sometimes they become almost indifferent to what happened to them. Jesus, true to his promise, does not abandon his disciples in their questioning. Rather, he appears to them again and reissues the mandate to go forth and preach forgiveness. This is expressed symbolically in today’s passage when he says, “’Cast your net over the right side…’”
Many people dismiss the gospel accounts of the resurrection appearances. They see them as fishing stories; that is, exaggerations of wonderful experiences. These skeptics challenge us believers to explain the possibility of the stories’ ever taking place. We should respond to the challenge in at least two ways. First, we need to study the gospel accounts with the help of faithful commentators so that we may provide explanation of their reasonableness. Second, we want to testify to their veracity by living truly changed and holy lives.