Homily (Reflection) for Third Sunday of Easter, Year C (10th April, 2016) on the Gospel

Acts 5:27-32.40-41;
Ps 29:2.4-6.11-13. (R.v. 2);
Rev 5:11-14;
Jn 21:1-19 or Jn 21:1-14.

In the year 1708, the last Catholic priest then living in Japan, a Jesuit, was beheaded. He had been captured five years earlier being smuggled into the island. The Emperor thought that with the last priest in the country put to death, the Catholic religion that had been started there was dead. But he was wrong.

In 1859, after Commodore Perry sailed into Japanese waters and a treaty was signed permitting foreign ships to visit Japanese ports and chaplains to live in the port cities, a few priests once again made their home in Japan.

In 1865 a group of people from a distant village came to see one of the priests. They asked to see the chapel, which evidently met with their approval when they saw the Blessed Sacrament exposed there. Then their leader asked him two questions: “Do you honour the Virgin Mary?” and “Is the Holy Father in Rome the head of your church?”

To each question the priest answered yes, and the man replied, “Then you believe the same as we do. We are Catholics.” To this simple man, whose people had been separated from any religious teaching for 150 years, the rule of the Pope was the distinguishing mark that identified the Catholic Church.”[1]

Topic: The primary quality.

Today’s gospel is made up of two parts: Jesus’ third appearance to His disciples after His resurrection (Jn 21:1-14), and His reaffirmation of Peter’s task to shepherd His Church (Jn 21:15-19; cf. Matt 16:18).

In the first part, Peter and six other disciples went to fish in the Sea of Tiberias but they caught nothing that night. Jesus appeared to them after daybreak and the beloved disciple was the first to recognise Him after making them catch so many fish. They used some of the fish for their breakfast. And for our reflection on the first part of today’s gospel on Easter Friday (1st April, 2016), click on this link: http://www.thepulpitonline.com/2016/03/uphold-your-call-easter-friday-octave.html

The second part of the gospel followed their breakfast. Jesus asked Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” He replied, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” Jesus asked Peter a second time, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter again replied in affirmation. And Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” Again, Jesus asked Peter the same question a third time. Because Peter was hurt he replied, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” And Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” Jesus also prophesied on the kind of death Peter would die to glorify God.

But wait a minute. Who will be comfortable if asked a particular question three times? Just imagine the state Peter was in today’s gospel.

Why did Jesus insist on Peter’s love? We must remember Christ’s words to His disciples indicating the nature of their mission, “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves” (Matt 10:16). It is the disciples’ love for Christ and the gospel would sustain them in such field of battle. We read from Saint Paul’s letter to his beloved son, “and therefore I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am sure that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me” (2Tim 1:12). If the disciples needed love to stand, the disciple of disciples needed it more. He was the one to strengthen others, cf. Lk 22:32.

According to the Song of Songs,

... love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If a man offered for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly scorned (Song 8:7).

And while Paul was writing on the gifts of God, he concluded that the chief among the gifts is love, cf. 1Cor 13:13. And it is rightly identified as the fulfilling of the law, cf. Rom 13:10. In the words of Saint John “... love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God” (1Jn 4:7). And unlike other gifts, love never ends, cf. 1Cor 13:8-12.

Therefore, the primary quality Peter needed to stand as the head of Christ’s sheep (Church) is love – of Christ, His gospel, and the sheep. In the same vein, we all need love both in our service of God and our neighbour. It is important to see if we have this.

We thank God in a special way as we celebrate the 2016 Mothering Sunday today. The vocation of motherhood is not an easy one. Just like the call to be Christ’s disciples needs love, vocation to motherhood needs love too. We therefore ask God to keep all our mothers in their noble vocation with His love without which they cannot stand. Finally, it is important for us all to love, to obey, and to pray for our Holy Father, the Pope as he shepherd the flock of God entrusted to his care.

Bible Reading: Song 8:6-7; 1Pt 5:1-4; 1Cor 13:1-13; Matt 10:16-25.

Thought for today: Love is necessary in everything we do.

Let us pray: Heavenly Father, help us to love you above all things and whatever you have entrusted to us in this life – Amen.

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Happy mothering Sunday to all mothers!

And may God bless you all+

[1] Sagayanathan, A. (2009). Launching pad: Stories for Sunday homilies – A, B & C. Bangalore: Asian Trading Corporation, pp. 276-277.

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