Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Third Sunday in Easter

Third Sunday in Easter
April 14, 2013
Acts 5:12-16; Psalm 118; Revelation 1:9-13, 17-19; John 20:19-31

This Gospel is fascinating for us because of the tiny details and the great significance of so many points in a relatively short passage. We wonder why the disciples, after having already experienced the Risen Lord in bodily form several times, cannot see any physical similarities to this man on the beach. Why does Jesus make it difficult for them to recognize him? For sure, his symbolic actions point back to the life of Jesus of Nazareth, but would it have been so costly to keep the same appearance? It may have helped future generations who read these accounts.

Jesus reveals himself to his disciples one final time before his ascends to his place in heaven. He returns to the place where it all began – the sea of Tiberias where seven of his friends are fishing. He instructs them as he originally did – to put out into the deep and to haul in a large catch of fish where they are able to realize his extraordinary abilities. The beloved disciples’ memory flashes back to the original moment when Jesus revealed himself to them and he instantly recognizes the Lord’s presence in the present moment. Then as now, they know something new is beginning.

Have you ever returned home after being away for a long time? Or visited a special place where you once experienced a meaningful moment? We return to those extraordinary places and we breathe in the air around us and we let memories flood back to us. We remember the special fragrances, check out the size of the buildings and parcels of land, see if a particular tree still stands, and we look for our familiar landmarks. Our senses become alive and we sit to ponder the passage of time musing over the ways we have changed.

We return home and it is never the same. We return to our roots to restart a new life – perhaps as a continuation or a re-founding of our true selves, but we have been forever changed by our experiences. We simply cannot return to a simpler, nostalgic time because it does not exist, but we can bring greater meaning to our experiences.

The disciples of Jesus go back to the familiar where they can see the greater meaning in their original call. The call remains the same, but now it carries more weight. The novelty of being with Jesus as he preached to the Israelites is completely gone, but they receive the same call, but with much more added purpose. The first time they went with him, they were filled with awe, fascination, and wonder; this second time with him, they witnessed his death and his resurrection to new life. The first time was filled with freedom and exhilaration; the second time was borne with responsibility and concern for others. When they were young, they could go where they wanted, but now someone else will lead them to places where they don’t want to go, but they will do it obediently out of love for Jesus. They realized their lives were not their own any longer, but they lived for Christ. They returned home as changed men and nothing could satisfy them except for living their “resurrected” call.

We store our memories into our unconsciousness where they can be accessed through a resurfacing of our senses. These memories can be ‘dangerous’ in a good sense because they will not keep us satisfied with the status quo, but will always spur us onwards towards Christ’s goal for us. We cannot give up. These memories ground us and keep us restless because we are impelled to renew our lives so that we live for Christ and not for ourselves. In prayer, it is always good for us to return to the scene of our call and let it come to life again. It will never be the same and we will get a nuanced refocusing of our call, but with the original memory’s freshness that let us know it remains authentic.

Each time we revisit it though, we get the same dangerous question that the Risen Jesus thrice asked Peter: Do you love me more than these? It is a great barometer for measuring how well we live out our call. Peter knew it was not an easy question to answer; may it never be! It is the basis of our lives. I suggest that you not hastily answer this question. Of course, we will all answer ‘yes’ because we think it is the only answer we can give. Don’t just react; please respond to his question with sufficient reflection over a period of time. Let Jesus ask you three times and answer it over a period of weeks and wrestle with the implications for you. Love always changes a person forever.

Love for Jesus made Peter and the other Disciples stand up in the courts before the Sanhedrin and declare their obedience to God rather than to men. What does your love for Jesus ask you to do?

Themes for this Week’s Masses

First Reading:  We continue with the Acts of the Apostles and we read the account of Stephen who was working great signs and wonders among the people in the name of Jesus. False testimony is lodged against him but he stands angelic before them. His angry opponents stone him including Saul who gave consent to execute him. A severe persecution breaks out in Jerusalem and the believers are displaced to Judea and Samaria. Saul, trying to destroy the Church, enters house after house to arrest them. Philip's testimony and miracles in Samaria emboldens the believers. Philip heads out to Gaza and meets an Ethiopian eunuch who is reading Isaiah's texts. Philip interprets the scripture and the eunuch begs to be baptized. Meanwhile, Saul is carrying out hateful acts against the believers and is struck blind as he beholds an appearance of Jesus. The beginning of his call and conversion is happening. 
Gospel: In John 6, Jesus feeds the 5,000 as a flashback to the Eucharistic memory of the believers with the Bread of Life discourse. Jesus instructs them, "it was not Moses who gave you bread from heaven; my heavenly Father gives true bread." Jesus proclaims, "I am the bread of life." He further states that anyone who comes to him will never hunger or thirst. Jesus will raise everyone on the last day. All that is required is belief in him. Belief is a gift not given to all and the way to the Father is through the Son. As you would expect, opposition arises to the statements of Jesus as his cannibalistic references are hard sayings to swallow. He tells the people, "my flesh is true food, and by blood is true drink." If you eat of Jesus, you will live forever.

Saints of the Week

No saint is listed in the calendar this week.

This Week in Jesuit History

·      Apr 14, 1618. The father of John Berchmans is ordained a priest. John himself was still a Novice.
·      Apr 15, 1610. The death of Fr. Robert Parsons, the most active and indefatigable of all the leaders of the English Catholics during the reign of Elizabeth I.
·      Apr 16, 1767. Pope Clement XIII wrote to Charles III of Spain imploring him to cancel the decree of expulsion of the Society from Spain, issued on April 2nd. The Pope's letter nobly defends the innocence of the Society.
·      Apr 17, 1540. The arrival in Lisbon of St Francis Xavier and Fr. Simon Rodriguez. Both were destined for India, but the latter was retained in Portugal by the King.
·      Apr 18, 1906. At Rome, the death of Rev Fr. Luis Martin, twenty-fourth General of the Society. Pope Pius X spoke of him as a saint, a martyr, a man of extraordinary ability and prudence.
·      Apr 19, 1602. At Tyburn, Ven. James Ducket, a layman, suffered death for publishing a work written by Robert Southwell.
·      Apr 20, 1864. Father Peter de Smet left St Louis to evangelize the Sioux Indians.