Sunday, April 18, 2010

They Recognized Him In The Breaking Of The Bread.

Third Sunday of Easter
Reading I
Acts 5:27-32, 40b-41
When the captain and the court officers
had brought the apostles in
and made them stand before the Sanhedrin,
the high priest questioned them,
“We gave you strict orders, did we not,
to stop teaching in that name?
Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching
and want to bring this man’s blood upon us.”
But Peter and the apostles said in reply,
“We must obey God rather than men.
The God of our ancestors raised Jesus,
though you had him killed
by hanging him on a tree.
God exalted him at his right hand
as leader and savior
to grant Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins.
We are witnesses of these things,
as is the Holy Spirit
whom God has given to those who obey him.”
The Sanhedrin ordered the apostles
to stop speaking in the name of Jesus,
and dismissed them.
So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin,
rejoicing that they had been found worthy
to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.
+++    +++    +++    +++ 
Psalm 30
I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.
I will extol you, O LORD, for you drew me clear
and did not let my enemies rejoice over me.
O LORD, you brought me up from the netherworld;
you preserved me from among
those going down into the pit.
I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.
Sing praise to the LORD, you his faithful ones,
and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger lasts but a moment;
a lifetime, his good will.
At nightfall, weeping enters in,
but with the dawn, rejoicing.
I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.
Hear, O LORD, and have pity on me;
O LORD, be my helper.
You changed my mourning into dancing;
O LORD, my God, forever will I give you thanks.
I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.
+++    +++    +++    +++
Reading II
I, John, looked and heard the voices of many angels
who surrounded the throne
and the living creatures and the elders
They were countless in number,
and they cried out in a loud voice:
“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain
to receive power and riches,
wisdom and strength,
honor and glory and blessing.”
Then I heard every creature
in heaven and on earth
and under the earth and in the sea,
everything in the universe, cry out:
“To the one who sits on the throne
and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor, glory and might,
forever and ever.”
The four living creatures answered, “Amen, “
and the elders fell down and worshiped.
John 21:1-19
At that time, Jesus revealed himself again
to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias.
He revealed himself in this way.
Together were Simon Peter,
Thomas called Didymus,
Nathanael from Cana in Galilee,
Zebedee’s sons,
and two others of his disciples.
Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.”
They said to him, “We also will come with you.”
So they went out and got into the boat,
but that night they caught nothing.
When it was already dawn,
Jesus was standing on the shore;
but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
Jesus said to them,
“Children, have you caught anything to eat?”
They answered him, “No.”
So he said to them,
“Cast the net over the right side of the boat
and you will find something.”
So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in
because of the number of fish.

So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter,
 “It is the Lord.”
When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord,
he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad,
and jumped into the sea.
The other disciples came in the boat,
for they were not far from shore,
only about a hundred yards,
dragging the net with the fish.
When they climbed out on shore,
they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread.
Jesus said to them,
“Bring some of the fish you just caught.”
So Simon Peter went over
and dragged the net ashore
full of one hundred fifty-three large fish.
Even though there were so many,
the net was not torn.
Jesus said to them, “Come, have breakfast.”
And none of the disciples
dared to ask him, “Who are you?”
because they realized it was the Lord.
Jesus came over,
took the bread and gave it to them,
and in like manner the fish.
This was now the third time
Jesus was revealed to his disciples
after being raised from the dead.

When they had finished breakfast,
Jesus said to Simon Peter,
“Simon, son of John,
do you love me more than these?”
Simon Peter answered him,
“Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
He then said to Simon Peter a second time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Simon Peter answered him,
“Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
Jesus said to him the third time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was distressed
that Jesus had said to him a third time,
“Do you love me?” and he said to him,
“Lord, you know everything;
you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
when you were younger,
you used to dress yourself
and go where you wanted;
but when you grow old,
you will stretch out your hands,
and someone else will dress you
and lead you where you do not want to go.”
He said this signifying by what kind of death
he would glorify God.
And when he had said this,
he said to him, “Follow me.”

On this Third Sunday of Easter, we continue to look at the experiences the disciples had of the Risen Jesus. Today’s readings, especially the Gospel, speak of the meaning of discipleship, and challenge us to witness to our faith with constancy and with courage. To be a genuine disciple of Jesus, it is not enough to be good, but to have the courage, when the call comes, to do difficult things, perhaps even to suffer, for our faith. It is in sharing the suffering of Jesus that the disciple shares in glory.

Let us first look at the Gospel, in which the Risen Jesus reveals himself to his disciples. Just three days ago, Jesus had died on the Cross. His followers, including Peter, who had made such a bold profession of loyalty, had all fled. Today’s Gospel implies that they left Jerusalem and returned to their native Galilee, where they went back to their boats and their nets. The past three years had been an interesting –even exciting – interlude, but now they were going back to their former way of life, as fishermen.

It is early morning, and after a whole night out on the water, they have caught absolutely nothing. Suddenly, a stranger on the shore calls out to them: “Have you caught anything?” Reluctantly (you know what fishermen are like) they admit that they’ve caught nothing. The stranger says, “Drop your nets on the right side and you’ll find something.” They do that, and they catch so many fish that the boat can’t hold them all.

It’s at this moment that the disciple whom Jesus loves (as he is called in John’s gospel) cries out, “It is the Lord!” It is not that he recognizes the face of the stranger on the shore, but that he has recognized the hand of God in what has just taken place. This is the same disciple who, looking into the empty tomb on Easter morning saw the way the burial cloths were arranged told him what he happened. “He saw, and he believed.”

Now, Peter and the others also realize that Jesus is present. Impetuous Peter, first clothing himself out of respect for his Master, jumps into the water and swims out to Jesus. The others are left to bring in the boat and the catch. When they come ashore, they find the Lord preparing a meal for them, of bread and roasted fish. “Bring some of the fish you just caught”, he says. Yes, the disciples pulled in the fish, but with Jesus, they would have never have found them. “Without me, you can do nothing.”

Here, there are all the elements of the Eucharist. The disciples are in the presence of Jesus, listening to the Word of God in person. “Come, have breakfast”, he says, very much like “Take and eat; this is my body.”

At the same time, the evangelist makes what may seem a strange comment. “None of the disciples was bold enough to ask, ‘Who are you? Because they knew that it was the Lord. This is something that they have to learn. The Risen Jesus does look the same as he did when he was alive in the flesh. It is not with their eyes, but by their faith, that they are sure it is the Lord.

After the Resurrection, for the disciples and for us, too, Jesus has many faces. Your rich neighbor, your poor neighbor, your friend, even your enemy, can be the face of Jesus. He can be found especially in the poor, the downtrodden, the handicapped, the weak, the uneducated, the stranger, and the foreigner. Jesus can have a Jewish face, an Anglo face, a Latino face, a pink face, a brown face, a black face. Our faith must never become a religion of insiders, since it is in the outsider that Jesus is to be found.

Like the disciples, we also must come to recognize Jesus not just at the privileged and rare moments of spiritual insight, but in the everyday events of our daily life. In this way, we are simply being at one with all creation, which is a hymn of praise to the Creator, as expressed in today’s Second Reading: “Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, everything in the universe cry out: ‘To the one who sits on the throne and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor, glory and might, forever and ever.”

Just as the “beloved disciple” was the first to recognize the Lord in the shadowy stranger, so too, we have Jesus pointed out to us in our own lives, and, once we have learned to see him, it will become our responsibility to help others to recognize the presence of Jesus and the Lord at work in their own daily experiences. It is a real form of evangelization (that is, of witnessing to the Good News of the Gospel) which anyone can do. It is not enough to be aware of God’s presence in our own lives; that awareness calls us to make that presence a reality, a genuine experience for the other people in our lives – family, friends, and neighbors, everyone we meet. The disciples could not remain in the upper room knowing that Jesus had risen. Their encounter at the lake made them understand that they could no longer go back to their boats and live for themselves alone.

So, after they share the meal with the Risen Jesus, there is the touching scene between him and Peter. Within this conversation, there are two themes. First, there is reconciliation between Peter and Jesus. In spite of all his bragging about being more faithful than the others, it was Peter and Peter alone who denied under oath three times that he did not have anything to do with Jesus. Now, in the gentlest of words, the Risen Lord asks him three times, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” Peter has learned his lesson. Three times Jesus asks him this question, just as three times he had denied knowing him. Finally, he says, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”

But this dialogue is more than a moment of reconciliation. It is also the passing of the baton to the new shepherd. Jesus hands over to Peter and his companions the mission he had been given by the Father. “Feed my sheep.” This is the responsibility of the Church, a mission that rests in various degrees on every one of us. It is not only popes, bishops, priests and religious who have this responsibility. It is also the mission of parents, of teachers, and simply of brothers and sisters one to another.

If we are truly to be disciples of Jesus, we are called to proclaim our faith in its fullness. If we take up this mission, we can expect to be misunderstood, to be pitied, to be despised – some may even want to be rid of us, even violently. Many thousands of our brothers and sisters, in many parts of the world, and in our own lifetime, have had this experience. They do not regret living their faith to the full; and if it should happen, they do not shrink from dying for the faith. The word “martyr” in Greek, simply means “witness”. Not every witness becomes a martyr, by dying for the faith. Those who do have no regrets; it is because of them (and because of those who witness more quietly, as well) that the message of Christ, the good news of truth and love, lives on.

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