Sr. Janet M. Peterworth, OSU

Reflection on the Third Sunday of Easter:

When I was a teenager and my mother and I would get into tussles over something, she would usually say, “It is not what you said, young lady, it is how you said it.”  I thought about that line as I reflected on today’s readings because they are all about speaking, aren’t they?

Peter and the others spoke and got the people upset;…… angels spoke –they even cried out; and the elders fell down. ……Jesus spoke, “Have you caught anything?” and they were afraid to ask “Who are you?”

What is it about speaking? Is it the words we use? Is it the tone of voice we use? Is it the message words and tone carry? “Carl Sandburg reminds us to look out how we use words for they can walk off and they can’t be called back.

In today’s first reading after a debate with the Sanhedrin, Peter and the apostles basically say they won’t be quiet. They must speak about Jesus. They are compelled to speak. They are honored to speak.

Then in John’s vision, he heard angels crying out and before it was over every living creature in the heavens, on earth, under the earth and in the sea was crying out. What a mighty chorus.

But it is Jesus’ words in JN 21: 1-19 that gentle us today. This breakfast on the beach is one of the most endearing scenes that appear in John’s Gospel. And we almost did not get to hear about this breakfast on the beach.  Some scripture scholars think it was written later than the Gospel that seems to end with Chapter 20. Did John remember something later and add it? Did someone else add it because it has so much meaning? We will probably never know. But the story is important as it reveals a gentle way to speak.

Jesus was so gentle when he spoke to those men who had left Him. Translations vary on how he calls to them. Some say He said “boys”, some say “lads”, and some say “children.”  But whatever the word, Jesus is being gentle with them. They have gone back to what they know… fishing. Had they turned their backs on discipleship? Did they think it was all over? Or were they feeling guilty?  But the words Jesus spoke were so kind. “Come, have some breakfast.” He could have been harsh. After all, He had been known to scold them, “Could you not watch one hour?” “What were you discussing as you walked along?” “How slow you are to believe.” “I have been with you all this time and you do not know me?” But His words were gentle this time.

And later, Jesus took Peter aside and quietly asked (whispered?) to Peter three times “Peter, do you love me?” Asking the question three times was not lost on Peter. He knew why Jesus asked three times and he knew that he was being given a second chance at discipleship. It was such a gentle reminder.

And so it is all about speaking isn’t it? It is all about discerning when and how to speak God’s word. Do we keep speaking as Peter and the disciples did even after they were told to be silent? Do we keep speaking when others do not want to hear our message or when our words contradict “man-made” arguments? Do we continue to speak on the steps of City Hall or in front of offices named ICE? Do we continue to speak our message through writing letters or sending emails to the congress? Or do we speak even when we know we will be cuffed and taken before a judge?

Do we cry out as the angels did in John’s vision so that all the earth will join us? Do we stand on the street corners with over-sized banners that cry out welcome to immigrants and refugees?  Or do we cry out to passers-by with posters and prayer, “Trafficking is slavery—stop it?”  Or do we go to Frankfort and cry out telling legislators that mountain-top removal is immoral and untenable, and that teachers need to be valued. Are we crying out when we walk through down town Louisville carrying a cross?

Or do we take our cue from Jesus and speak softly and gently and non-judgmentally when we tell a despondent mother that we can help her with rent or her lights and heat? Do we speak gently to young people as they share in a candle-light circle what is was like for them to encounter a person choosing to sleep on the street or a hungry person who stands in line for a hot meal? Do we use gentle non-judgmental words when we have birthday dinners for women at Diersen Center or visit men at LaGrange prison? And what about the gentle prayers uttered by those who gather to remind us that murder and violence are not the answer?

It is all about speaking isn’t it? All about speaking up, crying out, whispering… and all about knowing when to do each so that God’s word is made known.