08 May Third Sunday in Easter
May 5th, 2019
Deacon Blaine Barclay
There are a couple of related themes in our readings today. From the Acts of the Apostles, the joyful boldness of the testimony and witness of the apostles in the face of opposition. From the Book of Revelation, our collective participation in a symphonic hymn of joyful praise. From the gospel of John, the gift of the resurrected Jesus in the midst of the apostolic community, and the animating joy that comes in the moment of recognition, and communion with the Risen Jesus. In short, joy, joy, joy, all pointing toward the transforming power of the Resurrection. Culminating in the invitation to love, and feed the sheep.
The Disciples have been given ‘strict orders not to preach’ in the name of Jesus, but to keep their faith under a bushel, so to speak. Yet, with self forgetful boldness they have ‘filled Jerusalem’ with their teaching, their bold proclamation that Jesus is Risen, that Jesus is the Christ. They are caught in the tension between a holy obedience to God, and a holy disobedience to a merely human ordinance. ‘We must obey God rather than human beings’, they say. The more the power of the grave tries to hold them back, the more the power of the resurrection turns them into bold witnesses to the good news of forgiveness and repentance. We can ask ourselves. How are we told by our culture and by the people in our lives, ‘not to speak in the name of Jesus’? And what will give us this same apostolic boldness?
What is the animating principle of this boldness to speak in the name of Jesus? To the gospel of John. First of all, we notice what slow learners the disciples were. They have encountered the Risen Lord on numerous occasions, and yet they still feel the pull of their old lives, and they still don’t recognize Jesus. ‘Let’s go fishing’, says Peter, and the rest eagerly join in. They fish all night and catch nothing. The work of evangelization is always a night filled with nothing if Jesus isn’t the one filling our nets. One author notes that, ‘never in the gospels do the disciples catch fish without Jesus’ help’. A stranger on the shore tells them to cast their nets on the right side of the boat. They still don’t recognize the Risen Lord. Not until their nets are bursting with fish do they realize the stranger is Jesus. ‘That disciple whom Jesus loved’ is the first to recognize him, for only in knowing how much we are loved will we have the eyes to see Jesus. But it is Peter who jumps in the water and swims ashore. Notice the hospitality of Jesus. Jesus feeds them and us with the bread and the fish, the Eucharistic bread of his body, and the flesh of his fish catching Word. We are called to invite others into this liturgical shore meal, where we eat from the table of his Word and his Body.
And finally, back to our second reading, we come to the cosmic vision that animates our boldness to speak. The post resurrection, great liturgy of heaven and earth. ‘Myriads of myriads (myriad = 10,000 x 10,000) and thousands of thousands’, of angels, living creatures, elders, ‘singing with full voice’. Every creature in heaven and on earth, and under the earth, and in the sea, and all that is in them singing. Praise, worship, the cosmic liturgy is symphonic. The vast chorus of living beings singing praise to the Risen Lamb upon the throne. The whole creation animated with the resurrection power that burst upon the cosmos on that first day of the new creation, the Lord’s Day, Sunday, the 8th Day. The First of Days, that dawns again this day in the fishing nets filled to bursting, in the shore breakfast with the Risen Jesus. ‘Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish’.
And so we come to Peter, and by extension to his successors, the Bishop of Rome. Jesus asks Peter three times, ‘do you love me’, and each time Peter answers, ‘Lord, you know that I love you’. And so the Risen Jesus continues to feed us with the Bread of his Body, and the fish of his Word. ‘Feed my Sheep’.