“Jesus said to them: ‘Come, have breakfast.’ And none of the disciples dared to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ because they realized it was the Lord.” John 21:1-14.
Our gospel passage brings us to the very conclusion of John’s gospel, and we read that the fishermen are back at work at the Sea of Tiberias.
Jesus joins them at the shore and calls out to them: “Children have you caught anything to eat?” At first, he’s a “mystery man,” and they don’t recognize him. Later he urges them: “Come, have breakfast.”
Only then at this meal did the Easter presence of Jesus or encounter take on a gradual unfolding of faith in him and one another. We have such moments of encounter that we live, never hold on to, but never forget. Do you have such moments?
Let’s see whether an encounter of mine holds up to such a test of time and memory.
Back in the early 1980s, a long time ago, I was invited to attend the annual Catholic Broadcasters Association Dinner at the Starlight Roof of the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. That year, the organization honored Jim Henson, whose work on Sesame Street and his creation of the Muppets had become a national phenomenon.
I arrived at the hotel, and at the concierge desk, I asked where to take the elevator for the Starlight Roof. The gentleman at the counter said: “Sir, please proceed to the elevator bank, and take the non-stop elevator, which will take you directly to the reception.”
So I proceeded to the elevator, pressed the button, and from a lower floor, the elevator appeared, the doors opened, and in a very tight space for only two or three passengers, there was Jim Henson himself, and the guest speaker. Yes, on the elevator was the creative genius of Kermit the Frog. Miss Piggy, Cookie Monster, and the rest of the gang.
As the doors to the elevator closed, and we took the ride upward, I said: “Mr. Henson, congratulations on the award you are receiving tonight, and do you realize that you have changed the world!” He laughed. Now since I was wearing my priest’s collar, he said: “Well, thanks, Father!”
Now it was apparent to me, that Henson was carrying a small valise, about the size of a violin case. So I inquired: “By the way, Mr. Henson, I’m more than curious, what’s inside your case?” With a broad smile, and in a sound so familiar came the voice of Kermit, the Frog who said: “I’m with my partner and in transit.” So both of us laughed!
At that point, the doors of the elevator opened, Henson’s handlers were there to greet him. Frankly, I don’t recall much about the reception nor anything he may have said in his speech to the broadcasters. However, I remember the chance encounter and Jim Henson’s gentle grace. Again, it’s one of those moments we live, never hold onto but never entirely forget.
Back to the gospel, the apostles and friends of Jesus were in the same mode of personal encounter. These friends of Jesus were not on an elevator, nor in the presence of a TV celebrity. They found Jesus in a familiar place where they labored. We, too, can find him in school or when we enjoy each other’s company, celebrate community, and share a breakfast meal. In a neighborhood and in friendship, you would know.
Whatever had happened at the cross on Good Friday, now they were assured that Jesus had not abandoned them. Easter Sunday was fixed in the lives, that his presence became permanent in their being, so much so they advanced his way of life in faith, hope, and love to make sacred his holy memory.
If we were to read the very next passage from John’s Gospel, we learn that Jesus tells Peter and the rest: “Feed my sheep.” And then, he summoned them: “Follow me.”
So centuries later, even today, we celebrate this meal, this Eucharist, as a reminder of his constant invitation to love and nourishment, renewal, and healing.
Let these fifty days of Easter be a time of “restorative grace.” Not so much an Easter duty or obligation, rather a time to celebrate the presence of Christ, his healing vision, and mercy.
We follow Christ for the sake of our family, friends, and in service to a world in need.
Let us draw upon these encounters with the Lord and one another, and in the memory of the very acts of love that we live, never hold onto, but never forget.
Rosary Chapel, Santa Catalina School, Monterey, CA
Here’s my favorite version of “The Rainbow Connection” with Ed Sheeran and, of course, Kermit the Frog.