Today’s Gospel reading at Mass was a well-known story. The story is from John 21 and is of the disciples deciding to go fishing. They catch nothing until Jesus tells them to toss the net over the other side of the boat and they caught a large number of fish. Father John focused on the next section of the story during his homily today and it took me by surprise. I felt like I could tell this story in my sleep as I’ve heard it so many times! But, he focused on a line in this story that I don’t ever remember hearing before. The line is right after they caught the large number of fish.
So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad, and jumped into the sea.
As Fr. John explained, in the Greek language, that small phrase ‘for he was lightly clad’ would mean that he was in actuality naked. So, the reality is that when Simon Peter heard that it was Jesus, he put on a garment for he was naked and jumped into the sea. Why would he do that? Wouldn’t it make more sense to remove clothing before jumping into water? But, we are really being taken back in time to Genesis and the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve had eaten of the tree of knowledge, they covered themselves because of shame. They knew that they had done wrong and recognized their sin, felt shame and hid. Simon Peter does this same pattern. When he knows the Lord is there, he covers himself out of shame for his tri-fold denial of even knowing the Lord.
But, the thought that crossed my mind went deeper than this. Jesus had died, the apostles had hid and had seen Jesus several times after the resurrection. During this whole time, Simon Peter went about life as he usually did. During this particular passage, he is out fishing and going about his life as if that time of sin, those times of denying Jesus never even happened. It isn’t until Jesus shows again here that Simon Peter is made aware of his sin and feels shame for this sin. Isn’t that much the way we go through life? We go through life wanting to do good. But, we sin. When we sin, what do we do? Usually, go about life. We may feel bad when it first happens, but most times, life seems to ‘take over’ and we get caught up again in the process of just living. It isn’t until we are faced with Jesus, face to face, that the realization of what we did followed by the shame for that sin sets in.
So, we live much of our time in a state of sin which is unrealized. Only through confronting that sin by being face to face with Christ on the cross, can we move ahead into the light of the Resurrection. Confrontation is never easy. But, it is necessary. As necessary for us as it was for Simon Peter.