“Simon Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing.’ They said to him, ‘We will go with you.’ They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, ‘Children, you have no fish, have you?’ They answered him, ‘No.’ He said to them, ‘Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’ So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off. When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread…” (Jn 21:3-9)

Peter has come a long way since his very first encounter with Christ, roughly three years before the incident described above. At that first encounter three years earlier, when the Lord similarly revealed Himself through a miraculous catch of fish, Peter’s reaction was fear: “Go away from me, Lord,” he said to Jesus, “for I am a sinful man!” (Lk 5:8) To Peter’s way of thinking, back then, his own sinfulness meant he needed to distance himself from the Lord.

But now, three years later, Peter’s reaction to the presence of Christ is very different: he literally jumps to greet Him. And this is not because Peter is any less aware of his own sinfulness. On the contrary, he had just recently thrice denied Christ and was, at this point, a lapsed Apostle. Having “wept bitterly” over his lapse, Peter is broken; he is more aware than ever that he is “a sinful man.” And yet he no longer seeks to distance himself from the Lord because of this, because after three years at Christ’s side, Peter knows that the Lord is particularly open to the repentant sinner: “I have not come to call the righteous,” He says, “but sinners to repentance” (Lk 5:32). So Peter now brings humble self-knowledge to the table, rather than isolating himself in self-centered fear.

Today, when Christ calls me to “Come and eat,” let me not hesitate nor self-isolate in fear. Let me hasten, in humble self-knowledge, to His table, because He did and does, indeed, “eat with tax-collectors and sinners.” (Mt 9:11)

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