3rd Sunday of Easter, Cycle C

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?  

Mark Powell in Introducing the New Testament describes Acts as a “history of a particular institution or organization composed by that entity’s public relation department,” (p. 197).  Everything always seems to work out for the best.  Embarrassing incidents, failings, prayers unanswered and people not healed aren’t mentioned, although they must have happened.  At times we are like this when someone close to us dies too.  But maybe there is a lesson in this.  We take our faith so seriously, sometimes seeing the bad more than anything else.  What if we focused on the positive?  What if we reveled in the good of our church and our relationship with God?

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!  (The elders are 24, 12 for the tribes of Israel and 12 for the disciples.  It is really a way of saying ALL fell down to worship.

Note how John includes every creature in worship.  Pope Francis in “Laudato Si” says, “Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another,” (#42) and “Every creature is thus the object of the Father’s tenderness, who gives it its place in the world,” (#77).  How might be worship God within the context of creation?

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 kinds 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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