“To be stories at all they must be series of events: but it must be understood that this series—the plot, as we call it—is only really a net whereby to catch something else… No net less wide than a man’s whole heart, nor less fine of mesh than love, will hold the sacred Fish.”
There are moments in our lives when grace can act like a certain slant of light cutting through a dim room at dawn. Providential conversations, series of events, and even the worst of trials can suddenly fall into place like the threads of a story at its close—and the strands of those memories can seem to gleam like liquid gold, pointing directly back to Christ, the master Storyteller. Yes, He knew what He was about. Yes, He knew what He was doing. Yes, it’s true, He was with you the entire time, fitting and attuning your heart to His own heart—even if you could not see Him through eyes filled with salty tears. Have you ever heard it? Can you remember—?
In this Gospel reading, we find the apostles back where their story began, before they embarked on the adventure of living with and learning from Christ. How the familiar creaking of the timbers, the gentle lapping of the waves, and the dappled moonlight on the deck must have consoled them—and yet, not have consoled them, for these men were not the same fishermen Jesus had called years ago. At the end of a three-year spree of miracles in which their hearts were transformed and prepared for Something by Someone, the last miracle—the greatest miracle—must have seemed just out of sight, hidden by a veil of confusion and hope. It is the point in the story when each page feels like an eternity, where, as Fr. Jean-Pierre De Caussade writes, “ordinary human common sense, seeing no way out of it, realizes all its weakness and shortcomings and feels completely baffled.”
It is at this very moment that the story—particularly Peter’s—comes full circle. At dawn, Christ appears “to those who belong wholly to him and disentangles them from all their troubles far more easily than novelists, working away in the peace of their rooms, extricate their heroes from all their dangers and bring them to a happy and successful end” (De Caussade). At the start of his adventure, when the nets are empty, Peter does not seem to trust when instructed to put out into the deep (Luke 5:1–11). Now, the nets are lowered without delay, and on the right side of the boat. Before, the nets are tearing, unable to contain what Christ is sending them. Now, they remain whole, receiving the entire gift. Before, Peter falls at the feet of Jesus and begs Him to depart from him, for he is a sinful man. Now, in the light of the Resurrection, in the light of Merciful Love, he immediately jumps from the boat to go to Jesus, despite his sins, just as he did to walk on water with Him—perhaps inspiring C.S. Lewis’s valiant mouse who vowed to sail, paddle, or swim until reaching Aslan’s country or sinking with his nose to the sunrise.
Most importantly: the Last Supper becomes the first breakfast, in which Christ is revealed in the breaking of the Bread, the edible Light. By this new charcoal fire, far from the crowds and crowing birds, Peter’s three denials turn to three affirmations of love, as Jesus sets his life on a new course. While Peter’s heart had torn earlier and could not follow Christ to the cross, his new heart would not tear as he laid down his life for the early church, as seen in the first readings this week. Every moment, every seemingly insignificant detail, led and would continue to lead Peter to love with a love more like Christ’s, a love with a decisive direction and courageous trust that the gates of hell would not prevail against. This was a moment where the threads of Peter’s life gleamed like gold, pointing to Christ—almost like the ends of stories in which hobbits grow up and save the Shire, children return to England and learn to love Aslan by another name, and boy-kings go on alone (and at once) to lead their kingdoms. Can you remember seeing such flashes of gold, and feeling your heart sing, safe in His own heart—in the folds of His Mercy?
Still, Peter’s life goes on past this moment, just like ours do. Events continue to happen, and we again find ourselves in the dark, being led where we might not have chosen to go—for all hearts being conformed to Christ’s will be led to the cross. Peter is crucified far from home. We are enduring isolation and illness, desolation and death. In the stories, the hobbits say farewell to their dearest friend, the children lose their lives in a British railway accident, and the grown king is parted from his wife and only son—going on yet again alone (and at once). But, these events are not the end of the story. “God has His pen and an open book before Him, and in this book He writes a blessed story which will end only when the world ends.” Along the way, there will be wounds that words like these cannot heal—only the Word can heal. There will be times when we don’t understand why something happened, like the apostles, like Mary Magdalene, weeping by the tomb. And there will moments when He is revealed to us at dawn, and our hearts sing in the sunrise.
This Sunday is Divine Mercy Sunday. Even if we cannot see the streaks of gold amid the gloom and each page feels like an eternity, we can try to remember and remind others of the radiant light of His resurrection. He is our greatest Friend, who desires nothing less than our whole hearts, is always with us, and weeps with us along the way. Every moment we allow Him to take, bless, break, and share us is precious, for His grace heals and elevates our hearts if we unite our sorrows to His sorrowful passion, even if our eyes are filled with tears. Yes, He knows what He is about. Yes, He knows what He is doing. Yes, it’s true, He is with you the entire time, fitting and attuning your heart to His own heart—you can trust Him, even in the dark, especially in the dark. And, from the diary of St. Faustina, “You will not be alone, because I am with you always and everywhere. Near to My Heart, fear nothing… Know that My eyes follow every move of your heart with great attention. I am bringing you into seclusion so that I Myself may form your heart according to My future plans” (797). In other words, “Take courage, dear heart” (Lewis).
Jesus, I trust in You. Amen.
Reading & Listening Suggestions
Fr. Jean-Pierre De Caussade, Abandonment to Divine Providence
St. Faustina, Diary: Divine Mercy in My Soul
C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, On Stories
Peter Kreeft, The Worldview of C.S. Lewis and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader
His Own, Remember