Scripture Commentary for 3rd Sunday of Easter

1ST READING – ACTS 5: 27-32, 40-41

How is this reading pertinent to church and political life today?  The Sanhedrin was the Jewish high court, consisting of 71 members which included elders, high priests, priestly leaders and scribes.  They could pass legal judgment in most cases, except capital cases which were reserved for the Romans.  They were very powerful.  And they refused to feel any responsibility for Jesus’ death.  They considered the apostles as renegades from Judaism, and so they exerted their control over them  (Birmingham, W&W, p. 279). Yet the apostles stood their ground.  They drew their line in the sand, and actually rejoiced that they could suffer for the cause.   These are the same apostles that were hiding out in the Gospel last week!  What brought them out of their fear?  

2ND READING – REVELATION 5: 11-14

Revelation is a book to excite the senses.  In a sense, to ‘interpret’ this book is to misinterpret it, for often the appeal is to the imagination; it a book to be experienced, not explained  (Powell, Introducing the New Testament, p, 519).The slain Lamb conjures images of the Jewish Passover, and Jesus represents the sacrificial lamb  (Birmingham, W&W, p. 280).  Notice how the elders are better listeners in this story than the first reading.  They actually fall down and worship…quite a contrast!

This vision ‘warns’ us and encourages us by telling us that at the throne of God, things will look quite different from this world’s order.  We need to be people who will rejoice at the surprising and ‘upside-down’ order of God’s love! (Celebration, April 2004; Exploring the Sunday Readings, April, 2001)

GOSPEL:  JOHN 21: 1-19

Night-time was the best for fishing.  From W.M. Thomson in The Land and the Book writes, “There are certain kinds of fishing always carried on at night.  It is a beautiful sight.  With blazing torch, the boat glides over the flashing sea, and the men stand gazing keenly into it until their prey is sighted, when, quick as lightening, they fling their net or fly their spear; and often you see the tired fishermen come sullenly into harbor in the morning, having toiled all night in vain.”   It also happens that the men in the boat rely on someone on shore to tell them where to cast.  From a distance, a person might see the fish in the clear water better than from straight above.  Jesus was acting as guide to his fishermen friends, just as people still do today  (Barclay, The Gospel of John Vol. 2, p. 281).

It was Jewish law that to offer a greeting was a religious act, and for that one must be clothed.  That is why Peter first puts on his tunic before going to Jesus (p. 282).   Peter is such an example to us!  He jumps in with excitement to get to Jesus as soon as possible!

This story is meant to ground the risen Christ.  He actually came…not as a vision or spirit but the real deal who pointed out fish, cooked and ate with his friends.

Why 153 fish?  One idea from St. Jerome is that there were 153 different kids of fish, so the catch was all-encompassing.  The number symbolizes the fact that some day all people of all nations will be gathered together to Jesus Christ.  The net stands for the Church; and there is room in the Church for all people of all nations  (p. 284).   Like it says in Lumen Gentium from Vatican II:  The Church works and prays diligently with great hope that everyone in the whole world will ultimately join together as the People of God.

Why “more than these”?  It could be that Jesus swept his hands around the boat, nets, equipment and catch and meant more than this life Peter had.  Or perhaps Jesus meant more than the other disciples, fore-shadowing Peter’s place in the early church  (p. 285).   Either way, Jesus asks Peter 3 times of his love, giving him a chance at forgiveness and rehabilitation.  Of course, Jesus had forgiven him already, but perhaps Peter still clung to the guilt.

Love costs. Peter’s love for Jesus brought him both a task and a cross. Love always involves responsibility and sacrifice.   It is the cost of discipleship; it is what ‘picking up our cross’ is all about. The cutting edge of love is not dying for the other but living for the other. It is caring for the other for their own sake, regardless of consequences.  (Celebration, April  2001 &2004)  How does this group compare with the Sanhedrin in the 1st reading?

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One response

  1. This is so well done, really wonderful – thank you. What a gift you are to your parish and community. The exegesis is excellent, and the thought provoking question at the end of each element is really great.

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