Sunday of the Third Week of Easter
April 22

The Gospel selection for this Third Sunday of Easter tells of two very different events that take place after the resurrection of Jesus. You will hear both events as you attend Liturgy today.

Here, I prefer to focus on the second part of the Gospel, that narrates the triple profession of love and faith of Peter for Jesus. The setting for this scene is the shore of the sea of Tiberius. Jesus and the disciples had just finished eating breakfast. They were sitting by a fire that burned on the shore. Jesus invites Peter to make amends for his triple denial of Jesus during his Passion. We recall his being asked by a servant girl if he was with Jesus, for he also was a Galilean. This happened three times and three times Peter denied that he ever knew Jesus.

Peter made a lot of mistakes and what we could call blunders in the Gospel story. But along with all this one thing is sure: Peter loved Jesus a bunch. After he denied three times that he even knew Jesus, he realized what he had done, and he went out of the courtyard and wept bitterly.

Today’s Gospel story is another beautiful story of love and forgiveness. For one reason or another, it reminds me of the Parable of the Lost Son in the Gospel of Luke. Maybe because it is a story of love and forgiveness. Here Jesus asks Peter three times if he loved him. He asks him once for each denial, it would seem. Peter replied yes to the first two times Jesus asked him and perhaps he got a little irritated the third time when Jesus asked him the same question. Then he responded, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”After each affirmation, Jesus told Peter, “Feed my sheep.” Then he asked him to “Follow me.”

The 21st Chapter, the source of today’s Gospel, is the Epilogue of St. John’s Gospel. There are many non-Johannine peculiarities in this chapter, and yet there are also many Johannine features as well. Some scholars maintain that John did not write this chapter; that it was added later. It is also possible that the tradition was ultimately derived from John, but preserved by some disciple other than the writer of the rest of the Gospel.

In any event, we remember that Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew 16:18 said to Peter, “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church.” Jesus obviously forgave Peter his triple denial and because of Peter’s great love for Jesus, put him at the head of his Church. Peter’s offense ceases to have existence with the forgiveness of Jesus. Jesus lets it go. He forgave Peter and challenges him to take the leadership position in his Church.

Jesus forgives our sins the same way he forgave Peter. After they are forgiven, our sins cease to have existence. They are no more. Let’s not let what we did in the past get in our way of the present or the future. After forgiveness, Jesus also challenges us to get on with our lives and to follow him. He challenges us to surrender to him who is the way, the truth, and the life.

Are we accepting that we are indeed forgiven by Jesus if we have confessed our sins and accepting his challenge to get on with being his disciple?

Fr. Howard

Monday of the Third Week of Easter
April 23

The Gospel selection for today suggests that we not strive for perishable food or material things, but for that which endures for eternal life. In other words, do not neglect the spiritual side of things.

It is true that we need to work for the material necessities of life. We require homes, furniture, TVs, computers, food and drink, vacations, etc., to live comfortably. And there is nothing wrong with that at all. But the idea is not to make all of this our first and only priority. Don’t neglect the spiritual side of life. We mustn’t forget to let God into our daily lives; to pray and meditate daily, to go to Mass at least once a week, to take time for our family relationships, to take the time to truly love each other. All of these things nourish us spiritually and should not be neglected for the material.

Greed is cunning and sneaks up on us. It doesn’t know the meaning of the word “enough”. Let’s be careful that this virus doesn’t infect our lives.

Jesus, help us to love the things that bring us closer to you.

Fr. Howard

Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter
April 24

Bread has always been regarded as the staple of life. Even in the Lord’s Prayer we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” That is pretty much the same as saying “give us life this day,” give us the means today of sustaining life. Bread, in the broad sense, is food of any kind. We need food to live. When we have no food or cannot eat for whatever reason, our days are numbered. Bread, food, sustains us, maintains us, in life.

Our spiritual side also needs to be maintained. This is going to be the theme now all the way through the 6th chapter of the Gospel of John that we started this week. Our spiritual side also needs to be nourished in order to grow and live. Too many worldly and pleasurable attractions are always trying to pull us down spiritually, to draw us away from our God, who is the source of all life. Jesus knew this and provided for us the nourishment of his own Body and Blood for our spiritual life. What a truly marvelous gift!

Few of us need much pushing or incentive to approach the dinner table for a fine meal. We are usually ready and willing! Let’s not forget to approach the “table of life” often with the same enthusiasm. Our spirit needs this spiritual food for the true life of both body and soul.

Fr. Howard

Wednesday of the Third Week of Easter
April 25, Feast of St. Mark

Today the Church celebrates the feast of the evangelist, St. Mark. Mark has for his symbol the lion. He was likely the author of the first Gospel, written in Rome shortly before A.D. 70. We do not know where he was born or where he died.

His name was John-Mark; John was his Hebrew name, Mark, his cognomen in the Greco-Roman world outside Palestine. His mother’s name was Mary, who opened her home in Jerusalem as a kind of rendezvous for the Apostles. Peter sought shelter there the night he was miraculously released from prison. It was Peter who baptized Mark who then became Peter’s personal friend and disciple. He also accompanied Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey, but turned back to rejoin Peter when they reached Perge.

Mark went with Peter to Rome. It was there that Peter preached and Mark recorded what he heard. These recordings became his Gospel. We know nothing more about St. Mark. His only purpose seems to have been to serve the Church. We all can use him as a model in that regard.

St. Mark, pray for us.

Fr. Howard

Thursday of the Third Week of Easter 
April 26

Let us hear and reflect upon the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel about listening to God. He says: “Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me.”

We have remarked before when discussing the Great Commandment that we love God with our whole strength, heart, mind and soul by listening intently to his words and then acting upon them. We get this idea from the story of Jesus coming to the house of Martha and Mary where Mary sat at the feet of Jesus and listened to him while Martha prepared the meal. And when Martha complained to the Lord that no one was helping her with all the work and to tell Mary to help her, Jesus replied that Mary had chosen the better part and that it would not be taken from her. We too must have this “better part” if we hope to have an intimate relationship with God. We must listen to him intently, focus on and concentrate on his words, and then apply them in our lives.

Lord, I know that many times I allow your words to go in one ear and out the other. Help me to focus on your words to better know your will for me.

Fr. Howard

Friday of the Third Week of Easter 
April 27

Today’s Gospel selection approaches the end of the 6th chapter of John’s Gospel, the Eucharist Chapter. In this Gospel we see the Jews quarreling among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” And we could well respond to them with the words Christ spoke so often to his Apostles, “O you of little faith!”

We get so used to wanting a reason for everything we accept. We have to learn that we don’t always have to have a reason, a proof, for everything. Faith is a beautiful thing; faith in God, in others, and in ourselves.

For me, proof is in the head; faith is in the heart. I’m arriving now at the point where I couldn’t care less about the head trips. At one time that was my life, or so it seemed. But now, as I grow older, the heart is beginning to speak to me far more eloquently than the head. I think the great theologian, St. Thomas Aquinas, came to the same realization. After he finished his great theological work, the Summa Theologica, he realized it was all a head trip and for that reason he wanted to burn it! To me, Jesus is God and his words are to be taken to my heart. I have to learn to let go and let God. If Jesus tells me something, that is good enough for me.

Jesus, my heart tells me that your Flesh is my true spiritual food and your Blood is my true spiritual drink. They nourish me and help me grow spiritually and to come closer to you. I experience this all the time. I know it in my heart. What greater proof do I need?

Fr. Howard

Saturday of the Third Week of Easter 
April 28

Today’s Gospel selection brings to a close the 6th chapter of John’s Gospel. The subject matter is pretty much the same today as it was yesterday, except that today we see some of the disciples turning away from Jesus and become unable to follow him any longer because he said his Flesh was food and his Blood was drink. In yesterday’s Gospel, it was the Jews who had the faith problem.

Jesus saw this exodus of his followers; some of whom had probably been with him for a long time. He didn’t jump up and holler, “It’s OK guys! I was just kidding!” He let them go. The kind of head-trip proof they wanted was not to be found.

Jesus then said to the Twelve, “Do you also want to leave?” But Peter, who loved Jesus so very much, answered him, “Master, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and are convinced that you are the Holy One of God.” Peter spoke from his heart. His words were “heart words” of faith.

Jesus, help us to also be able to speak those beautiful words of Peter.

Fr. Howard

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