Do we remember the last time Peter warmed himself by a charcoal fire? Do we remember the last time Peter said something devastating three times? Both occurred in the courtyard at the trial of his Master. Peter, the Rock of the Church, denies his Master and runs away. He weeps bitterly. Even after the Resurrection Peter struggles. He takes the others fishing at night, a symbolic time of personal pain for the Church. They seem to be lost and on their own. Now the scripture does not read well, but Peter’s pain is deep because he is naked in the boat. It is another symbol of exposure, shame and sin. And then when someone calls to them about their work from the shore, Peter does not even recognize the voice or the person. That person is The Lord and Peter needs John to point out the Risen Crucified Christ. The Rock is in need of soul repair.
In the words of Frederick Buechner: A rock isn’t the prettiest thing in creation or the fanciest or the smartest, and if it gets rolling in the wrong direction, watch out, but there’s no nonsense about a rock, and once it settles down, it’s pretty much there to stay. There’s not a lot you can do to change a rock or crack it or get under its skin, and, barring earthquakes, you can depend on it about as much as you can depend on anything. So Jesus call[s] him the Rock, and it [sticks] with him the rest of his life.
How magnificent and how merciful that Jesus does not mention the denial! How powerful that the Christ does not throw his sin back into his face. Instead, the Risen Crucified Christ does soul repair. “Do you love me, do you love me, do you love me?” We are not only speaking about the love that a Christian has for the whole wide world. We are also speaking about a deep friendship love. Jesus Christ, the foundation stone rejected by the builders, still loves the Rock of the Church at a charcoal dire. There, Jesus seeks to repair Peter’s moral injury.
Today, “[U]nder the leadership of theologian Dr. Rita Nakashima Brock,” a retired chaplain and colonel, and a biblical scholar, “Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth” recognizes “the kinds of injuries that occur to people whose life experiences have placed their moral character under undue stress.” They started what they call “the Soul Repair Center.” It “provides research, curricula, and training to help persons who suffer from moral injury (defined here). Imagine being a sniper for a police agency who finally fires that first shot in the line of duty – and watches the target die instantly. The sniper is doing her job by protecting other people from imminent danger, but it turns out that killing people is bad for the soul. (See Brock’s book, co-authored with Garbriella Lettini, “Soul Repair: Recovering from Moral Injury after War.”)…Moral injury happens when we transgress our basic moral beliefs and expectations. It can occur when we’ve done our best in impossible circumstances or when we’ve simply failed. Millions of people are living with moral injury in the United States alone.”
So, am I in need of soul repair? St. John says, “How do I follow Christ?” If I go fishing during the night of my personal pain, I am bound to catch nothing. If I minister in the Church without prayerful direction from the Lord I will be disappointed and frustrated. Remember that it is not until Peter and the Disciples listen to Jesus to cast the net over the right side of the boat did they find something. Simon Peter drags the net ashore full of 153 large fish. According to Fr. Robert Barron, ancient society believes that there are 153 species of fish. This means that Peter drags the entire Church with him to breakfast with the Risen Crucified Christ. Then Christ tells Peter, “Follow me and bring the others with you.”
The Lord repairs Peter’s soul. He can repair our souls too. Maybe there is a mystic in our lives like St. John who says, “It is the Lord.” Maybe we are tired of the night and we desire the Light of Christ. Maybe we are naked and we need to put on Christ. On this fifteenth day of Easter, the Lord welcomes us to the altar of his word and sacrament. We know we are sinful and sorrowful like St. Peter. Yet the Risen Crucified Christ keeps asking us, “Do you love me?”
The Rev. Fr. Dr. T. Becket A. Franks, O.S.B.
Third Sunday in Eastertide
(inspired by Dr. Greg Carey) (http://www.odysseynetworks.org/news/onscripture-the-bible-repairing-our-grief)