Sunday, April 3, 2016

Third Sunday of Easter - April 10, 2016

First Reading Commentary
"We must obey God rather than men."  The Catechism of the Catholic Church applies this verse to our own lives with these words: "The citizen is obliged in conscience not to follow the directives of civil authorities when they are contrary to the demands of the moral order, to the fundamental rights of persons or the teachings of the Gospel.  Refusing obedience to civil authorities, when their demands are contrary to those of an upright conscience, finds its justification in the distinction between serving God and serving the political community" (CCC 2242).  In our modern day we see the Church’s opposition to political authority as religious liberty, for example, is being challenged, which threatens the dignity of human life and reduces morality to something that has no place in public life. 
What happened to these men who are called apostles?  Aren't these the same men who ran away when Jesus was apprehended?  Isn't Peter the one who denied Jesus three times for fear of losing his own life?  How did they so quickly become brave and fearless?  The argument could be made that their sudden change is proof of Christ's Resurrection.  Peter and the others tell us that they are witnesses to the Resurrection of Christ the Savior Who grants repentance and forgiveness of sins.  Their witness is our faith builder.  If they hadn't been witnesses to these events, plus the complete turnaround in their own behavior, our own faith would probably struggle considerably more because we wouldn't have such a strong foundation.  The apostles' drastic change in attitude may have come through learning what a mighty fortress this divine gift known as love is.  After witnessing Jesus rise from the dead, the thought of what He endured out of love for us must have surely enveloped their hearts and minds.  And now they are sent to express love themselves by spreading His love through evangelization. 
Any loving parent would willingly lay down their life for their child.  It is this kind of love that must branch out and spread to all God's people.  Committing ourselves to Him through intimate prayer is how we can receive a greater, divine dosage of that mystery known as love.  And as recipients of such a gift, we also know that as servants of Christ, that gift must be shared.
Second Reading Commentary
The angels, the living creatures and the elders surrounding the Throne are described as "countless in number".  The Latin translation defines them as "thousands of thousands" while the Greek translation reads "ten thousand times ten thousand".  Here we see the intercession of the witnesses.  The prophets and the saints, all those who were slain on earth for their witness to Jesus, the vast throng of those who, having come through the great tribulation, have gone before us into the Kingdom, all sing the praise and glory of Him Who sits on the Throne, and of the Lamb (cf. CCC 2642). 
The One Who sits on the Throne and the Lamb are given blessing and honor, glory and might, forever and ever.  These words were important in the early Church because of some of the heresies which claimed that the Father and Jesus were not equals.  But as we read, the elders fell down and worshiped.  Worship is an act reserved for God alone; therefore, the One Who sits on the Throne and the Lamb are not only equals but God Almighty.
Gospel Commentary
Reading that Peter and some of the other disciples returned to fishing is very indicative of our own lives.  Lent is now over and it is tempting for us to breathe a sigh of relief, rejoice that we can eat meat again on Fridays, and return to the way things were before we began our Lenten disciplines.  The disciples tried to return to their former occupation but caught nothing until Jesus appeared to them and instructed them; hence the amount of fish caught was too heavy to pull.  The overabundance of fish represents the amount of souls that needed to be reeled in by these fishers of men.  Jesus speaks to us loudly and clearly in this scene.  He's telling us that if we are desirous to return to our former way of life, we will find nothing of any worth.  But if we hold fast to our Lenten convictions and continue to grow closer to Jesus through intense prayer, He will continue to lead us and guide us.  Jesus speaks to our hearts reminding us that He has called us to be His disciples and any attempt to forsake that calling and live according to our own design will prove to be fruitless. 
Saint Gregory instructs us: "We can never be allowed to give ourselves to employments which of themselves lead to sin."  In other words, any kind of spiritual sloth which will lessen our time with our Lord, and not keep Jesus perpetually in our hearts, opens up a doorway that allows many temptations to creep in which could lead to sin. 
If during Lent you went to Confession, read more from the Good Book, or spent more time in prayer, Christ lovingly pleads with you not to stop just because Lent is over. 
John, the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord."  In the encounter with the Risen Jesus, the title of “Lord” becomes adoration.  It thus takes on a connotation of love and affection (cf. CCC 448). 
Saint John Chrysostom observes the different characters of Peter and John: Peter was more ardent and vehement while John was more sublime and penetrating; and it is for these reasons that John was the first to recognize Christ while Peter was the first to hasten to Him. 
"Do you love Me?"  Our Divine Savior puts this question to Peter three times.  Saint Augustine suggests that being asked three times might correspond to Peter's thrice denial of Jesus.  Notice the first time, however, Jesus asks Peter: "Do you love Me more than these?" meaning the other disciples.  Peter simply answers:  "Yes, Lord, You know that I love You."  Peter, in humility, could not say that He loves Jesus more than the others.  Perhaps we are seeing here that humility is a must when called to be the Vicar of Christ.  Peter is given the authority to govern the Church.  Jesus confirms this mandate with the words: "Feed My sheep" (cf. CCC 553).  Love is the conqueror of all.  Peter's fear led him to deny Christ three times but what is evident in this Gospel is that love is victorious over fear.  Can you hear Jesus asking you the same question: "Do you love Me?"  It's a question that cannot simply be answered verbally and then pushed aside.  Peter was asked this question three times.  When examining our own lives, serious consideration as to how many times Jesus would need to ask us that question would be commendable especially when trying to grow in the spiritual life.  In other words, what expendable and unnecessary things are clung to that deny Jesus His rightful time with us in prayer?  What are we afraid to let go of even though we know it comes between us and that chance at intimacy with Him?  The answer, of course, is different for all of us as individuals and only we know what is necessary and what is unnecessary but it does require us to be honest with ourselves.  This removal of junk is an evolving process.  Perhaps there are things currently embraced that may now be deemed vital to our way of life; but as we grow ever closer to Jesus we may find that those crucial possessions are no longer that important.  Remember how Jesus asked the question the first time: "Do you love Me more than these?"  What is it in our own lives that could be categorized as "these"?  There are some things, depending on our state in life, which will always be necessary and consider it a blessing from God that He supplied it or entrusted it to us as a gift.  But when we can identify and get around all the road blocks, then Jesus is seen more clearly because love for Him will outweigh all else. 
Jesus speaks to the heart constantly with the words: "Follow Me."  It’s easy to accept such a gracious invitation, but the human heart struggles to remain always faithful to that acceptance.