The charcoal campfire appears twice in Scripture, both times in the Gospel of John. Before this, at the Last Supper, Jesus predicted that Peter would deny him. The first charcoal fire is the scene of Peter’s denial of Jesus three times after Jesus’ arrest.
The second time we encounter the charcoal fire is also in John, the Gospel reading from the third Sunday of Easter. The resurrected Lord has appeared to Peter and some of the others at Lake Tiberias. Peter seems lost, a man who has forgotten his true identity as the rock on whom Christ would build his church, the holder of the keys to the kingdom of King Jesus. He goes fishing, not for men but for fish. The great fisher of men catches nothing until the Lord comes by to instruct them where to fish, and they catch many!
Jesus has prepared breakfast on a charcoal fire and asks Peter three times if he loves him. Of course, replies Peter! Then Jesus instructs Peter to keep his mission of pastoring the sheep, the flock of the new kingdom. Jesus first restores Peter to his identity as a beloved child of God, beloved brother of our Lord, and as Peter receives the truth about himself – that he is forgiven his denial of the Lord and still chosen by the Lord – he is forever changed. This time Jesus prophesies that Peter will be true to his mission and die a death like his. No longer living in denial, Peter would go on to become the great rock, the first among the apostles.
We all need God’s love in order to understand his mission for us. The more deeply we allow his mercy to penetrate, the more our identity heals and the more we are filled with God’s confidence and love.
–Fr. Tim Nolt, YCP Austin Chaplain