Christians must ask themselves whether they are like St. Peter, who after his encounter with Jesus tried to return to fishing, but only found “empty nets” until he rushed back to the risen Christ with renewed enthusiasm and love.
Those were the thoughts of Pope Francis in his remarks before the Regina Caeli prayers with those gathered at St. Peter’s Square on Sunday.
“It can happen to us, out of tiredness, disappointment, perhaps out of laziness, to forget the Lord and to neglect the great choices we have made, to be content with something else,” said the pope on May 1.
“For example, we do not devote time to talking to each other in the family, preferring personal pastimes; we forget prayer, letting ourselves be wrapped up in our own needs; we neglect charity, with the excuse of daily urgencies.”
“But, in doing so, we find ourselves disappointed: with empty nets, like Peter,” said the pontiff.
Pope Francis drew on the gospel reading for Sunday, from the 21st chapter of the Gospel of St. John, after Jesus’ Crucifixion. It recounts Peter returning to fishing at the Lake of Galilee, where he had once abandoned fishing to follow Jesus. The pope suggested that Peter was disheartened and sought to return to his former life.
“And what does Jesus do?” Pope Francis recounted. “He returns again to the shore of the lake where he had chosen Peter, Andrew, James and John. He does not reproach them, but calls the disciples tenderly: ‘children’.”
“Then he invites them, as before, to cast their nets again, courageously. And this time the nets are filled to overflowing,” said the pope.
“Brothers, sisters, when our nets are empty in life, it is not the time to feel sorry for ourselves, to have fun, to return to old pastimes. It is the time to start again with Jesus, to find the courage to begin again, to set out with him,” Pope Francis continued.
After the apostle John recognizes Jesus on the shore, Peter “immediately dives into the water and swims towards Jesus.”
“It is a gesture of love, because love goes beyond usefulness, convenience or duty; love generates wonder, it inspires creative, freely-given zeal,” Pope Francis said. “In this way, while John, the youngest, recognizes the Lord, it is Peter, the eldest, who dives towards him. In that dive there is all the new-found enthusiasm of Simon, known as Peter.”
“Dear brothers and sisters, today we are invited to a new enthusiasm, to dive into the good without fear of losing something, without calculating too much, without waiting for others to begin. Because in order to go out to meet Jesus, we need to unburden ourselves,” he said. “Let us ask ourselves: am I capable of an outburst of generosity, or do I restrain the impulse of my heart and close myself off in habit, in fear?”
“Jump in, dive in,” the pope exhorted. “Jesus asks you, who have empty nets and are afraid to start out again; to you, who do not have the courage to dive in and have lost momentum.”
When Peter met Jesus on the shore, he affirmed his love multiple times.
“‘Do you love me?’ asks Jesus. From then on, Peter stopped fishing forever and dedicated himself to the service of God and to his brothers and sisters, to the point of giving his life here, where we are now,” Pope Francis said, referring to the martyrdom site of Peter.
“And what about us, do we want to love Jesus?” the pope asked, praying “May Our Lady, who readily said ‘yes’ to the Lord, help us to rediscover the enthusiasm to do good.”
After the Regina Caeli, Pope Francis turned to the invasion of Ukraine. He encouraged the faithful to pray a rosary every day for peace.
He said his thoughts went immediately to the city of Mariupol, “barbarously bombed and destroyed.”
He again called for safe humanitarian corridors for those trapped in the city, now largely under Russian control.
“I suffer and weep, thinking of the suffering of the Ukrainian people and in particular of the weakest, the elderly and children,” he said. “There are even terrible reports of children being expelled and deported.”
The Pope wondered whether peace really is being sought amid “a macabre regression of humanity.” He asked if everything possible is being done to “silence the weapons,” Vatican News reports.
“Let us take the path of dialogue and peace! Let us pray,” he said.