Third Sunday of Easter
May 5-6, 2018
Before gas grills made outside cooking a year round event, a sure sign of approaching warmer weather was the reappearance of Weber charcoal grills in the backyards throughout the neighborhood. Bags of charcoal briquettes and accompanying containers of lighter fluid added to grocery orders, meant dinners of hot dogs and hamburgers were soon on its way. For kids everywhere it also meant it was time for roasting marshmallows on a stick.
I’ve never thought of a charcoal fire as having religious significance; at least not until this Easter season. In today’s Gospel, we find Jesus in the early morning cooking fish, that the apostles had just caught (with a little help from the Lord,) on a charcoal fire. After the meal Christ asked Peter the same question three times; “Do you love me?” The answer is in the affirmative each time. “Feed my sheep … Tend my sheep … Feed my sheep, is the Lord’s command to Peter’s “Yes”.
There is another predawn charcoal fire that involved Peter and Jesus, with a much different ending. In John’s Passion of our Lord, read on Good Friday, Peter finds himself in the courtyard of the High Priest standing by a charcoal fire, while Jesus is being interrogated inside by the Jewish leaders. The apostle, surrounded by soldiers and servants, is questioned about his possible relationship to Christ. Three times Peter denies knowing Jesus before the rooster crows, heralding the sunrise.
Yet on the seashore of Galilee the Resurrected Lord shows Peter mercy and forgiveness. His three questions and Peter’s responses frees him of his guilt and allows him to become the leader of the young church. Jesus believed in Peter even when he stopped believing in himself.
We are offered that same redemption. What is holding us back from a deeper relationship with Christ? Whatever it is, the mercy and forgiveness of Jesus is waiting to be accepted by you. Once accepted, what are you going to do with it?
The next time you stand around a charcoal fire be reminded of Peter and our own weaknesses. Then be reminded of our Lord’s mercy extended to all of us. ‘Charcoal fires’… they’re not just for marshmallow roasting!
Patrick J. Perkins