Last week’s post focused on John 21:1-19, explaining that Jesus called Peter Simon, son of John because Peter lost the glory attached to the name “Peter”. Today, I continue my reflection on this very rich-in-meaning episode, identifying that all Church personnel are servants of Christ’s flock.
In the episode, Peter decided to go fishing. Six other disciples followed him—Thomas, Nathanael, James, John, and two unnamed disciples. They couldn’t catch fish, but when Jesus appeared and asked, John identified that it was Jesus. Peter jumped into the sea when he heard that it was Jesus. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the fish to the shore. So far, Peter had been in charge—influencing the decisions of the other disciples to go fishing and, as a professional fisherman, perhaps instructing them on what to do.
However, immediately after the boat went ashore and Jesus was present, roles changed. Jesus had prepared fish and bread for breakfast and said to them,
“Bring some of the fish that you have just caught. So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three of them; and although there were so many, the net was not torn”.
It is noteworthy that, although they were seven disciples and Peter was the head, Peter alone went to haul the 153 large fish—that’s some heavy stuff to carry alone. In the presence of Jesus, Peter was the “errand boy”.
One may argue that Peter was always impetuous, yet Peter was simply doing what Jesus told him. When the disciples disputed who was the greatest among them, Jesus said to them:
“The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you; rather let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For which is greater, one who sits at table, or one who serves? Is it not the one who sits at table? But I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:25-27).
This role change is highly significant. First, it clarifies our status as Church authority. The Church is the body of Christ, and it is only Christ that calls. I was called through the bishop, the bishop through the pope (Can. 377 §1), and the pope through the cardinal electors (Can. 332 §1). A religious was called through the competent superior, and the supreme moderator/Mother general was called through the delegates’ votes at the General Chapter (Can. 631 §1). The lay person performing an ecclesiastical function or occupying an ecclesiastical office was called through the parish priest or other competent authority. Indeed, “No one takes this honour on himself; it needs a call from God, as in Aaron’s case” (Heb 5:4).
Second, I see the episode as imagery of what will happen on judgement day. Peter led the other disciples to fish, which they should not have done. When Jesus appeared, he directed all the questions to Peter. On judgement day, we will answer questions on how we took care of the flock entrusted to us. Jesus never hid his condemnation of anyone who constituted a stumbling block to those seeking him or those who caused others to sin (Matt 18:6). We recall that Jesus was indignant when the disciples rebuked the people who brought children to Jesus. Jesus did not stop at indignancy; he welcomed and blessed the children (Matt 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-14).
Therefore, why do we puff up as priests, lording it over the flock against Jesus’ command to feed-tend-feed the flock? Why are we arrogant about our clerical status, forgetting that all the authority and respect we enjoy are privileges to be relinquished in the presence of Christ?
👉🏾Fr Chidiebere: Are you talking to me? Do you know who I am?
👉🏾Chidiebere Obiodu: Yes please, you are Jesus’ errand boy.
We are still errand boys, even while acting in the person of Christ the Head. The reason is that every single religious function we perform in the Church comes from the ministry of Christ, and they are to sanctify (feed-tend) his flock. Like Peter, we lose our authority in the presence of Jesus—the owner is around.
Sadly, your reaction to this post does not change that you are Jesus’ errand boy or girl and will give an account of your service on the last day. Ngwanu.
Ka Chineke mezie okwu🙏🏾