09 May 2010

The Mission of Easter

3rd Sunday of Easter - 18 April 2010

Readings: Acts 5:27b-32, 40b-41; Ps 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11-12, 13; Rev 5:11-14; Jn 21:1-19

This passage from the Gospel of John is the third resurrection appearance of Jesus to His disciples. The setting this time is the Sea of Tiberias where Peter and several disciples just spent a night of fruitless fishing, until Jesus came. Once again the story illustrates the significance of the resurrection and the implication of our Easter faith.

1. The resurrection of Christ affects everything, changes everything: "It is the Lord!”

Because He is the Lord and He is risen, everything changes. There’s a new way of looking at things, of interpreting prophecies, of looking forward to the future. When John sees the figure by the shore, immediately he knows: "It is the Lord!" What the beloved disciple said is more than just a statement, it is a profession of faith.

Peter's response too is a profession faith. He leaves what he is doing simply because it is the Lord. His action represents all our longings for that something more that will give meaning to our lives.

The catch of fish is not only proof of Christ's power and providence. It also symbolizes what happens when we follow Christ. He will bless our efforts and give us the grace to accomplish our task. It is the same grace that emboldened Peter and the rest of the disciples, as recounted in the Second Reading from Acts, to preach the good news to the Jews and bravely answer the high priests: “We must obey God rather than men.”

Phil 4,13 says: “I can do everything because of him who strengthens me.” Such is the power of our Easter faith.

2. The resurrection of Christ reveals the very heart of Christian faith, which is our relationship with Jesus: “Do you love me?”

Jesus asks Peter three times: "Simon, Son of John, do you love me?". In order to understand the meaning of this interrogation, one need only to remember the night Jesus was arrested and how Peter survived the night himself. Peter's response to Jesus' three questions has the effect of canceling out his thrice denial of Jesus.

This is Jesus: He reaches out to the ones He loves in the most personal way, even when they turn away, especially when they turn away. He appears to individuals and to groups during walks, meals, at work, during meetings.

This resurrection appearances exemplify what Christianity is about foremost: friendship what Jesus. He puts premium on relationships, love and loyalty. This main character of our faith is especially contrasted during this election season when we see so many switching of loyalties by politicians.

- 3x cancels Peter’s 3 denials
- breakfast, appearances to individuals and groups, personal touches
- it is about loyalty, love, relationship, friendship (election season: time of switching loyalties)
- our love of Christ is the measure by which we judge our actions:
1 Cor 13,1-3: “If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

3. The resurrection leads to mission: "Feed my lambs… tend my sheep… feed my sheep"

When Peter answered Jesus that he does love Him, He responds by entrusting him a mission: take care of his lambs and sheep. Caritas Christi urget nos, our love for Jesus urges us to love of neighbor and to mission for the Kingdom.

This means that our faith is not static, nor is it confined to acts of piety (pagsa-Dios). Nor is it compartmentalized but rather permeates our whole life. Here's a question: are you a stone or a sponge?

A stone when soaked in liquid is pretty much unaffected by its surrounding. It is hard and impenetrable. A sponge, on the other hand, given the same situation, absorbs in as much of the liquid as it can take. So it is when receiving the grace of the Easter, we can either be a stone (Easter has not much effect on us) or a sponge (we let Christ's resurrection permeate and transform our lives).

The Gospel scene tells of the disciples going back to their former way of life: on a lake or sea, fishing. In some translation Peter's line is: "I am a fisherman". I was as if the resurrection didn't happen or that they failed to grasp what their relationship to Jesus was about. Jesus was not about to let that pass. He was there to remind them.

This particular passage contains two powerful symbols -- that of a fisher and a shepherd -- which speak of mission for the Kingdom and in the name of Christ.

So what does it mean when we answer our "Yes Lord, You know that I love You"?

To love the Lord means
... to defend the poor and the powerless;
... to uphold the truth, and work for justice and peace;
... to admit your sins and do penance for them;
... to love your enemies, and forgive those who hurt you;
... to take care of the environment (this coming April 22 is Earth Day);
... to love your country;
... to defend life in all its stages;
... to vote wisely and responsibly;
... to live the faith, and be the change.

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