Some weeks later, in the evening twilight,
after Christ has appeared twice to his Apostles,
but most are still astounded and incredulous,
Peter says to the others that he is going fishing.
A number of them follow him to the lake,
and set out on the water.

The beloved disciple is one of those who follow,
and he says to Peter:
Simon Peter, whatever you ask I will do,
and wherever you lead I will follow,
for Christ has placed you as our shepherd,
as the first among the community of our brethren.
Yes, I earnestly and joyfully accept your word,
for in it I recognize the voice of Christ.
It is my joy to yield to you, Peter,
symbol of our unity, seal of communion,
and thus to belong, not to myself,
but to the Church born from Christ’s love.

To this, Peter replies:
Who am I? Who am I to lead?
I am a betrayer, a denier,
who fled before the suffering of Christ.
You, John, stayed close to him to the end,
when I ran away like a coward.

The words from my mouth…
these have been words of evil,
refusing to profess his name in faith.

But Peter! Peter! He came to us…
He came to you with his love and his peace.
He holds you ceaselessly in his Love.
You only need to let yourself be held,
and from this Love to love those
whom he entrusts to your care.

These are shoes bigger than I can fill;
this is a task that engulfs me in itself.

The task is tiny in comparison with Love,
which truly engulfs us like an Ocean without bounds,
and yet shelters us each, uniquely,
with utmost tenderness and care…

After these words, Peter turns away
and busies himself with preparing the net.

They fish all night, toiling, and catch nothing.
Finally, exhausted from the long night,
they sit on the deck of the boat, resting,
watching the sun begin to rise.

Peter’s mind goes back to the years
which he had spent at the side of Christ.
He thinks of that decisive day
when the night was spent in toil
without a single catch of fish.
But in the morning Jesus had said to him:
“Put out into the deep,
and lower your nets for a catch.”

An act of obedience, a trusting acquiescence,
before the Mystery he felt burning within Christ…
and they brought in more fish than they could hold.
“Depart from me, Lord; for I am a sinful man,” he had cried,
but Jesus simply raised him up and said in reply:
“Do not be afraid, for from now on
you will be catching men.”

Then Peter’s thought progress further
to those moments in the Garden of Gethsemane
when he slept in exhaustion while Christ, in agony, wept.
He thinks of his fear and his flight,
and then of the threefold denial:
those terrible words he said
as he stood beside that charcoal fire
at the hour of sunrise.

“I do not know him…I do not know him…I do not know him!”
echoes now in Peter’s ears again.

The shepherd of the flock, the rock,
the keeper of the keys he was…
but he has betrayed his Lord and God,
and turned to go his own way in sin.
What, now? The Lord has risen,
but the weight remains on Peter’s heart.

But other words come now to his mind,
which Jesus had said to him before:
“I have prayed for you, Peter, that your faith may not fail,
and when you turn again, strengthen your brethren.”

At that moment, as the horizon grows lighter,
Peter notices a human figure standing on the shore,
too distant to recognize, and barely visible.
As he studies this figure, he hears it speak,
the voice calm, and yet carrying easily across the lake:

Cast in the net on the right side of the boat,
and you will catch something.

Peter is hesitant at first,
confused at hearing this stranger
command them to fish after a fruitless night.
Then the words of Christ sound in his heart again:
“Put out into the deep, and let down your nets…”

He grabs the net, and, with the help of John,
casts it over the right side of the boat.
Within a few short moments, the boat rocks
and leans powerfully to one side,
as if the net is being pulled downward
by some strong force.

All of the Apostles together work
to pull the net up out of the water:
it is full to overflowing with fish.

John steps back and raises his eyes
to the figure standing on the shore.
In a loud and firm voice he cries:
It is the Lord!

Immediately Peter understands,
and without any hesitation
he leaps into the water
and swims to Christ.

Simon Peter and Jesus sit together
beside a charcoal fire
by which they had eaten breakfast.
The other Apostles have begun
cleaning the immense catch of fish,
and only the beloved disciple remains nearby,
lying on his back a few yards away
and looking up into the morning sky.

Christ turns to Peter and says:
Simon, son of John,
do you love me more than these?

Peter, without a moment’s hesitation,
Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.

Then Jesus says:
Feed my sheep.

After a moment’s pause,
Jesus says again:
Simon, son of John,
do you love me?

Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.

Tend my lambs.

And again, a third time:
Simon, son of John,
do you love me?

This time Peter is deeply distressed,
for Jesus threefold question
has come together in his mind,
and now he understands the Lord’s intention.
Three times I have betrayed, he thinks,
and now three times he asks me
to profess my love for him.

Then Peter says to Jesus, with vigor:
My Lord, you know all things…
You know that I love you!

Jesus says:
Then, my dear Simon Peter,
my friend and my beloved, if you truly love me,
then you will receive the strength from me
to be able to feed my sheep in my name.

On your own you cannot do this…
if you walk on your own strength and insight.
But I ask you only to love me
and to welcome the gift of my Love,
resting in it as it envelops you.

My Love will sustain you…
will sustain you to the end.

You must understand, Peter,
that you are to walk in my footsteps.
If you have professed the greatest love,
I will give you the grace also to live it.

From your youth until now
you have girded yourself
and walked wherever you willed,
but in the end you will be girded by another,
and led where you do not wish to go.
In your own life and your own death, Peter,
you will manifest my Passion,
making its redeeming power present
in this world so in need of God.

But you will not be able to do this
unless you learn to rest in me,
unless you live in the joy of obedience
by accepting my gift at every moment.
Abide, Peter, in this gift unceasingly given,
which carries you according to the Father’s loving plan.
This, too, my beloved, my friend,
is what I want you to communicate to them.

Yes, Lord, I sense my frailty;
I have felt it, bitterly,
and I only ask you to sustain me,
to hold me fast to you unceasingly.

Yes, Peter, be a child, be a little one,
and you will be able to guide these little ones.
For only children allow themselves
to be girded and guided freely by another,
belonging not to themselves, enclosed, independent,
but trusting in the One who shelters and cares for them.

As I have told you before:
be a child, and then you can be a father
to all the children of God entrusted to you.

But may I ask you, Jesus…
what about this man,
who lies near us on the ground?

The disciple whom I love,
who has rested against my Heart?
Do you not understand what he is,
for me, for you, for the Church?
He simply bears this mystery of childhood
which I have entrusted to you.
And the spirit which he lives so deeply
will endure as the inner heartbeat of the Church
until her consummation at the end.

It is up to you, Peter, to protect this,
and to foster it in the hearts of all.
They will look to you, they will obey you,
and you in turn must care for them.
And the best way, my beloved, to care for them,
is to yourself be one of them, a beloved disciple,
a little one, a child held in the Father’s arms.