3rd Sunday of Easter

Deacon Blaine


The first thing that struck me about today’s gospel is the attention to detail. The fact that Peter had to tuck his clothes into his belt before he could swim ashore; the precise count of fish they caught, 153; the boat was 90 meters from the shore; the charcoal fire; the threefold play on words between Peter and Jesus. These are the kind of details that only an eyewitness would remember. The second thing that struck me was just how many ’invitations’ there are in this story. Before we look at these invitations let me say that I take it as a given that all of these invitations are addressed to us as well as to the disciples on the Sea of Tiberius.

The first invitation is from Peter, the first of the Apostles. “Simon Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing’. They said to him, ‘We will go with you’.” Now, this little group of apostles may have just wanted to fish for one night to cash in on the sales at the morning market, or, they may have thought that they were returning to their old life ‘before Jesus’. Is it even possible to go back to life ‘before Jesus’? Either way, they caught more than they bargained for, but not before they worked all night and caught nothing. Prior to the encounter with the Risen Lord we labour in darkness and our work comes to nothing. But then the unexpected happens; Jesus, although they do not yet recognize him, asks if they have caught any fish.

The second invitation follows. Jesus invites them to, “Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some [fish].” They do, and the nets are almost bursting with more fish than they can hold. Immediately the Beloved disciple cries out, “It is the Lord.” For only love can recognize the Lord. Only now does Peter clue in, and in his impetuous eagerness, he can’t wait to encounter the Risen Lord, he tucks his outer garment into his belt, jumps in the water and swims for shore. We too, are asked to cast Peter’s net into the vast sea of humanity, to fill the nets to overflowing. Perhaps Peter’s impetuousness will be contagious and we too will not hesitate to jump into the deep in order to move more quickly to encounter the Risen Lord.

The next invitation is to break bread with Jesus. Jesus is cooking a shore breakfast for them of unleavened bread and fish, both of which resonate with Eucharistic meanings. We are even provided with the detail that Jesus is cooking over a charcoal fire; significant because the only other time a charcoal fire is mentioned is in the story of Peter’s threefold denial of Jesus on the night of his arrest. Today, in this our Eucharist, Jesus cooks a shore breakfast for us as well, feeds us with his own body, bread of the finest wheat, ‘Jesus Christ Son of God and Saviour.’

The next part of our story is Jesus’ threefold invitation to Peter into a greater love. Peter has been in despair, around another charcoal fire he denied Jesus three times. Here, at this breakfast charcoal fire Jesus asks Peter three times about the level of his love and commitment to him. In this scene Peter is being restored to his Apostolic Mission, to his leadership role among the apostles, to his Petrine Office, to ‘feed the sheep’, ‘to tend the lambs’. But in the original Greek of the New Testament, there is a play on words going on that is easily missed when we read this conversation in English translation.

The English language is impoverished when it comes to the word ‘love’. We use the same word, ‘Love’, for a whole range of commitments and feelings. I can say, ‘I love my wife, my kids, my grandkids, my friends, my dog, Indian food, Downton Abbey, my car, , and God, all using the same word. All the while it is obvious that I mean something quite different when I say, ‘I love my wife’, than when I say, ‘I love my car’. Ancient Greek, the language of the New Testament, was not so impoverished. There were at least four or five Greek words that we translate as ‘love’. In his conversation with Peter Jesus uses two of them, Peter in return uses only one. ‘Agape’ is the Greek word for a totally selfless love, a love that wills the good of the other without expecting anything in return. ‘Philos’ is the Greek word for the love between friends, a very high and noble love, full of affection and tender feelings, capable of great sacrifice and selflessness, but there is still a reciprocity that is part of the love between friends. A friendship that is not reciprocated will eventually fade.

Keep these definitions of Agape and Philos in mind as we listen in, once again, on the exchange between Jesus and Peter. Jesus asks, “Simon, son of John, ‘Do you Agape me?”. Peter answers, “Yes Lord, you know that I Philos you.” Jesus asks a second time, “Simon, son of John, ‘Do you Agape me?” Peter answers, “Yes, Lord you know that I Philos you.” Jesus dosen’t let up, but the third time he asks the question, he uses different language. “Simon, son of John, ‘Do you Philos me?’. Peter is hurt, because Jesus is asking a third time, but also because Jesus is asking about a different kind of love, friendship or Philos, rather than the total love of Agape.

Friendship with Jesus is the foundation and sure starting point for moving into the greater love that is captured by the word Agape. Jesus even promises Peter that eventually Peter will love Jesus, and the sheep, with this greater love, the kind of love that God has for humanity, the love that Jesus has for Peter and for each one of us. Listen to Jesus speak your name even now.  “ _________, do you love me? Hear your own heart answer, ‘Lord, you know that I love you.’ May the tender heartedness of Jesus’ love for us lead us always through the intimacy of friendship with him, into the ever greater self-emptying love that God has for each one of us and for all of wounded humanity. In this way we will be faithful to Jesus’ final invitation in today’s gospel, “Follow Me”.

The Chief medical Health Officer of Kingston has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
Please read and observe the six key principles outlined below.

1) The key principle is that we come to Mass to worship God. Out of justice and exercising the virtue of religion we must give God what is God’s due. That quite simply is worship, adoration and praise. Thus, the absolute essentials of Mass will be included so that the Sacramental praise of God will take place and we will be exposed to one another for as brief a time as possible.

2) The second key principle is that the health and safety of parishioners, staff and clergy here at St. Mary’s are essential and require our utmost concern and attention. Therefore, the dispensation from the obligation to come to Sunday Mass by Archbishop Mulhall continues to be in effect. Those who are sick, elderly or have other critical health concerns should not come at this time. However, that is left to your discretion. Should you make the choice to come, knowing the risks, you are most welcome.

3) The underlying principle of all of our restrictions in isolating, physically distancing, wearing masks etc. is the common good as we live out the Lord’s commission to “love one another.” We are to care for each other and at this time we are called to be as prudent and careful as we can to protect the health of everyone else and ourselves.
4) The principle for the next few weeks will be brevity. The received scientific wisdom is that the virus spreads within groups who spend a prolonged period of time together. Therefore, we will be reducing the Mass to the bare essentials.
5) Singing is considered more dangerous than speaking so you are asked to please not sing at all throughout the Mass. I will not be singing either.
6) If you have any sickness, are elderly or have a critical illness you should remain at home. The dispensation from the obligation to come to Mass continues through this time of 30% capacity. Of course, if you choose to come you will not be turned away. We will continue to live- stream the Masses until we are back to a more normal arrangement.

The Chief medical Health Officer has ordered that Masks must be worn at all places we gather indoors. That includes us here at the cathedral. We can’t supply everyone with a mask so please come with one. We would have a limited supply available for a loonie at the entrance of the cathedral.
We will pray a shorter Penitential Rite.
The Gloria will be said not sung. There is to be no singing by the congregation during the Mass. Only by a cantor or as we have today a physically distanced choir in the choir loft…3 metres apart.
We will only have one reading followed by the Psalm
The second reading will be omitted.
The choir will sing the Alleluia on Sundays. During the week it will be omitted. Please do not join in.
The Gospel.
A very brief (3-4 minute) homily will follow.
The Creed will not be prayed.
There will be no petitions. Please prepare your own petitions and offer them in your heart during the Mass.
There will be no procession of the gifts.
There will be no regular collections at this time in the Masses. It will happen later. Ushers will be at the doors to receive your offering as you leave.
The Eucharistic Prayer will be prayed. This is the Most Important Part of the Mass.
The Our Father
Sign of Peace. This is a time when we won’t shake hands. Please do not wave to each other or give the two finger sign of peace. Neither of these reflect what is the intention here…You are recognizing the presence of God in the other person and praying they know God’s peace. The most appropriate gesture is a slight bow or nod of the head to the other person. You have seen me do this at the sign of peace to all of you at every Sunday Liturgy.
Please be seated.
Then the ushers will direct you to the place where you will receive Holy Communion. Please do not leave your pew until an usher has indicated you should do so.
Another usher will be close to the Communion Station to receive your Sunday Offering.
When it is your turn to receive Holy Communion. You will stand 6 feet away on the red line. The person distributing Holy Communion will say “The Body of Christ”. You will say “Amen”. Then move forward within arms length and receive the Host. Once you have received go straight out the nearest exit and make your Thanksgiving on your way home.
Aisles 1 & 5 will come forward to receive Holy Communion and leave by the side doors.
Aisles 2, 3 & 4 will go to the back to receive Holy Communion.
Aisle 2 will exit by the exit closest to the rectory.
Aisle 3 will exit out the centre door which you came in
Aisle 4 will exit out the door by the washrooms.
You are strongly encouraged to receive Holy Communion in the hand. Receiving on the tongue endangers the person giving Holy Communion and yourself, the person receiving Holy Communion. If you wish to insist on receiving on the tongue please wait until the very end as the person giving Holy Communion should sanitize their hands after each communicant. The usher will pass you by and will come back to you after everyone else has received. Please don’t leave your pew until that has taken place.