04 May 2019

'We must obey God rather than any human authority.' Sunday Reflections, 3rd Sunday of Easter, Year C

The Gospel of John (2003) Directed by Philip Saville
Narrator: Christopher Plummer
[Today's Gospel ends at 5:00]

Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Gospel John 21:1-19 [or 21:1-14](New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition, Canada)  

After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias; and he showed himself in this way. Gathered there together were Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing.’ They said to him, ‘We will go with you.’ They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
Just after daybreak, Jesus stood on the beach; but the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, ‘Children, you have no fish, have you?’ They answered him, ‘No.’ He said to them, ‘Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’ So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in because there were so many fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’ When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on some clothes, for he was naked, and jumped into the lake. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, only about a hundred yards off.
When they had gone ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.’  So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three of them; and though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ because they knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
[When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Tend my sheep.’ He said to him the third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.’ (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.) After this he said to him, ‘Follow me.’]

John 21:1-19 in Filipino Sign Language

Fr Keith Gorman
(21 January 1920 - 19 December 2016)

Fr Keith Gorman was a Columban priest from Australia who worked for many years in Japan. I met him a number of times and was always struck by his delightful sense of humour and how he grew old gracefully. In one of the articles he wrote for Columban magazines he stated that his idea of heaven was having breakfast with Jesus on the shores of eternity. He clearly had today's gospel in mind. 

This is a gospel I often return to. Imagine being served breakfast by Jesus himself, as the seven apostles were on that blessed morning! And the second part, which will surely and unfortunately be omitted by many priests who will choose the shorter gospel, is for me one of the most beautiful passages in the Bible. Jesus is calling us into a deep intimacy with him. He addresses his question Do you love me? not only to St Peter but to each one of us today.

It is in that context that he tells Peter Feed my lambs . . . Tend my sheep . . . Feed my sheep. Jesus emphasises the relationship of intimacy with him as being fundamental, not the mission on which he sends us. Being sent on mission is a consequence of being invited into a deep, personal and intimate relationship with him.

For me as a priest today's gospel tells me that I must put prayer at the very centre of my life, not only the official prayer of the Church - the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, the Breviary, the Sacraments - but personal prayer.  The same applies to all who are called by God to the single life as priests, as religious, as lay persons.

Today's gospel is a call to married persons to put their spousal relationship at the centre of their lives. Through the Sacrament of Matrimony Jesus himself is the foundation of that relationship. And it is the bride and groom who confer that sacrament on each other, not the priest. He is a witness on behalf of the Church to their exchange of vows.

The first question Jesus puts to Peter is, Simon son of John, do you love me more than these? I understand this to mean 'Do you love me more than the others love me?' Husbands and wives are called by God to love each other more than anyone else loves them - including their children and their parents. And I take it to mean also that God calls them to love each other more than they love their children and their parents.

This does not mean loving anyone less, but rather drawing their children, especially, into their love for each other, a love that is based on God's love for them as a couple.

I truly believe that when their children become more important for spouses than they do for each other their marriage is heading for trouble. The same applies, I believe, to priests and religious who place their work, no matter how important and good in itself it may be, above their personal relationship with the Lord Jesus.

I once heard a boy of around 11 in the Philippines say, What I love most about my parents is that they are always together. He felt drawn into their love for each other, the same love that led to his being born. A teenage girl in the Philippines who had been abused told me how she was drawn to Jesus by a very poor black-and-white copy of Rembrandt's painting below.

Young Jew as Christ, Rembrandt [Web Gallery of Art]

My young friend said to me, He looks so human. She was basically expressing a desire to be close to Jesus, which is the desire Jesus has for her and for each of us.

For married couples, if God grants them children, Feed my lambs means primarily taking care of their children until they are ready to take on the responsibility of being adults. My mother often reminded me that when I'd be 21 - the then legal age of majority in Ireland, now 18 - I would be responsible for myself. I never took this to be an admonishment but rather as her giving me something valuable to aspire to. This, along with how I saw her and my father carrying out their responsibilities, was also a way in which they carried out the words of Jesus, Feed my lambs

The First Reading expresses in a different way the centrality of our invitation from Jesus to enter into an intimate relationship with him: But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than any human authority'. In other words, as Christians we are meant to live the values of Our Lord Jesus Christ in every aspect of our lives.

As it happens, there are elections in the Philippines on 13 May and here in Europe between 23-26 for the European Parliament, as well as local elections in the Republic of Ireland on 24 May. Will each of us involved in these elections allow the values of the gospel to determine how we vote? How we vote is also a way to Feed my lambs . . . Tend my sheep . . . Feed my sheep. How we vote is meant to be a consequence of the intimate relationship into which Jesus calls us within the Church. And when it comes to legislators making laws that are contrary to God's will, as some laws are, we must make the words of St Peter our own: We must obey God rather than any human authority.

Saint Peter, El Greco [Web Gallery of Art]

Antiphona ad introitum Entrance Antiphon Cf. Psalm 65[66]:1-2

Iubilate Deo, omnis terra (alleluia),
Cry out with joy to God, all the earth (alleluia);
psalmum dicite nomini eius (alleluia),
O sing to the glory of his name (alleluia),
date gloriam laudi eius, alleluia.
O render him glorious praise, alleluia.

Dicite Deo, quam terribilia sunt opera tua, Domine: 
in multitudine virtutis tuae mentiantur tibi inimici tui.
Say to God, ‘How tremendous your deeds!
Because of the greatness of your strength, your enemies cringe before you.

Iubilate Deo, omnis terra (alleluia),
Cry out with joy to God, all the earth (alleluia);
psalmum dicite nomini eius (alleluia),
O sing to the glory of his name (alleluia),
date gloriam laudi eius, alleluia.
O render him glorious praise, alleluia.

The text in Bold is used in the Ordinary Form of the Mass (the 'New Mass') while the complete text is used in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (the 'Old Mass') on the Third Sunday after Easter, which is the Fourth Sunday of Easter in the Ordinary Form.

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