Peter’s Five Do-Overs

User's Guide to Sunday, April 10


Sunday, April 10, is the Third Sunday of Easter (Year C). Mass Readings: Acts 5:27-32, 40-41; Psalm 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11-13; Revelation 5:11-14; John 21:1-19 or 21:1-14.

The horror of sin is that it does not allow any do-overs, and the beauty of Jesus Christ is that he gives us do-overs — as St. Peter discovers in today’s Gospel.

When we sin, we watch the consequences of our sin in horror, helplessly: In Shakespeare, Othello realizes that he can’t un-kill Desdemona and despairs. Paul McCartney said something cruel when he heard his mother died and was haunted by it for years: “I said something wrong; now I long for yesterday.” Regrets over abortion plague men and women their whole lives.

Today’s Gospel drives home the lesson that Jesus doesn’t work that way. Peter has no fewer than five do-overs.

1. Peter gets to do over his reaction to a miraculous catch. When Peter first met Jesus, he was tired from a night of fishing, but the Lord convinced him to “lower your nets for a catch.” Peter reacted to that first miraculous catch by saying, “Go away from me, for I am a sinful man.” In today’s Gospel, the Lord once again directs Peter toward a miraculous catch, and his reply is very simple: He doesn’t flee, but literally lunges at Jesus. Which brings us to:

2. Peter gets to do over his water walk. Peter once walked on water at the Lord’s command, but then he sank when he took note of the winds and waves instead of staying focused on Jesus. In today’s Gospel, he jumps into the water — and early Christians saw a connection with his attempt to walk on water. Peter was once so focused on Jesus that he walked on water; now, he is so focused on Jesus that he steps into the sea.

3. Peter learns not to pull the fish onto the boat. It is a small matter, but worth noting: The first time he receives a miraculous catch of fish from the Lord, Peter nearly sank his boat. An older, wiser Peter knows that just because the Lord blesses you doesn’t mean he gives your boat miraculous powers. In order to accommodate the Lord’s blessing, you need to change your life, or at least the size of your boat. So Peter pulls the nets on shore, not onto the boat.

4. Peter gets to do over his denials. Jesus told St. Peter during the Passion that he was praying that he would strengthen his brothers’ faith. Peter famously failed to do so, denying Christ three times by the fire at Jesus’ trial. This is the great shame of Peter’s life, and Jesus gives him a golden opportunity to reverse it here, by accepting Jesus three times by another fire, promising to feed his sheep and tend his flock. Which brings us to:

5. Peter gets to do over his leadership of the Church. Today’s Gospel begins with Peter saying, “I am going fishing.” His leadership of the apostles is such that several agree to join him. At the end, he is told that things will be different. “Someone else will … lead you where you do not want to go.” That is the life that Peter has ahead of him, both as the leader of the Church, where he is sent various places based on the needs of the Church, and in his ultimate death and martyrdom.

We have the same opportunity for do-overs Peter had. We just have to revisit what we have done wrong — in confession.

Tom Hoopes is writer in residence at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas.