Moving forward into mature spiritual growth
Recall a time when you realized that Jesus was ministering to you through another person or some unusual circumstance. You had no need to ask Jesus, "Who are you?" or "Is that you, Lord?" because you knew the answer.
Prior to the incident that happened in today's Gospel reading, whenever the resurrected Jesus visited his disciples, they either didn't recognize him or they thought he was a ghost. Now at last they have reached enough spiritual maturity to know Jesus when they encounter him.
What convinced them that this man standing on the lake shore was the Lord? Was it the miracle of the super-abundant catch of fish after a night of frustration and disappointment? As a repeat of what had happened at the beginning of his ministry, this might have been a clue. Or had they learned to sense his nearness?
How do we recognize Jesus?
Today's first reading reminds us that we reject the presence of Jesus when we fail to recognize him in the people around us, or when we fail to accept what he's doing in our long-suffering hardships. What seems like the wrong way to solve a problem actually is the cornerstone of God's plan. What seems like a reason to doubt God's love turns out to be the cornerstone of new spiritual growth. What seems like the loss of a relationship can become the cornerstone of a new and better friendship. What seems like a day of disaster is really "the day the Lord has made", a day to "rejoice and be glad in it", as today's responsorial Psalm proclaims.
Every time we give up, every time we despair, every time we lose hope, we are misunderstanding Jesus. He is always -- always! -- busy caring for us and working for our benefit (and for the benefit of everyone else who's involved in the situation). He's always fulfilling the Father's plans for us -- plans for our good, a loving plan. It's impossible for him to do otherwise!
Spiritual maturity comes from learning to recognize Jesus and keeping our eyes on him. We mature as he reveals himself through scripture, the Eucharist, in our hearts, in the love of the people around us, in the gifts and talents that God has given us, in the way circumstances fall into place and our prayers are answered, in the circumstances that don't seem good, in the people who are difficult to love, and in the dark where we can't see God at all.
When we ask: "Where are you, God? Who are you? Is that you?" -- that's when we're on the cusp of new spiritual growth. The next step is to trust that God is right here beside us doing much good.