Third Sunday of Easter, April 18
John 21: 1-9
The Gospel for this Third Sunday of Easter is made up of two rather distinct parts. The first 14 verses tell of Jesus’ third appearance to the disciples (the fourth if you count Mary Magdalene as a disciple) at the Sea of Tiberias. Here Peter again shows his great love for Jesus by jumping into the sea in an effort to get to Jesus before the boat arrived on shore with the other disciples. The second part (verses 15-19) tells of Peter’s rehabilitation with Jesus after he had denied him three times in the courtyard during the Passion.
Peter is one of my favorite disciples. I guess the reason for this is my ability to identify with him. Peter reminds me of Paul’s words in the Letter to the Romans (7: 15) that I also identify with: “What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate.” Peter didn’t like this trait in himself and neither do I like it in myself. But despite all of Peter’s goofs, we know how much he loved Jesus. In fact, it seems to be his great love for Jesus that got him into the situations where he goofed! If he had stayed in the boat with the others, he wouldn’t have sunk while walking on the water. If his love for Jesus had not caused him to follow him into the courtyard during his Passion, he would never have denied him three times.
Peter’s rehabilitation with Jesus is neat. Jesus doesn’t address him as Peter (Rock) but as Simon, Son of John. Kind of like our Moms addressing us by our full names when we were in trouble – remember? And Peter was in trouble. He had denied that he even knew Jesus three times and now three times he had to tell Jesus he loved him more than the other disciples. And we know that eventually Peter would be crucified up side down to “glorify God.” Scripture tells us: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15: 13).
If all of us were asked by Jesus: “Do you love me?”, I would hope we would respond somewhere along the lines of Peter. But that is a difficult question to answer. Do I truly love Jesus more than anything or anyone else in this world? Lord, please give me the grace and strength to answer as Peter did: “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Monday of the Third Week of Easter, April 19
John 6: 22-29
Today’s Gospel kind of reminds me of the famous words once uttered by the former President of the United States, John Kennedy. We all remember them, I am sure: Do not be concerned so much about what your country can do for you, but rather what you can do for your country. We can paraphrase that from today’s Gospel: Do not be so concerned about what God can do for you as to what you can do for God.
What can we do for God? Nothing, really. God is already always, infinitely happy. But what can I do for God that is going to make me happy? For starters, we can surrender our will and lives to his. We can put him in control of our lives and let him know we have faith in him and believe in him. And in view of our Gospel for today, we can let him know that we hunger for him and for his grace by our prayers to him. In other words, we can make God the center of our lives. If we do that, we won’t have to be concerned at all about what he can do for us. Believe me, it will happen!
Tuesday of the Third Week of Easter, April 20
John 6: 30-35
One of the things that Jesus did while here on earth ministering to God’s people that really upset the Pharisees and Jewish leaders was to sit down at table and eat with sinners. He went out of his way to invite them to eat with him, to share his food, to be intimate with him and he with them. By so doing, Jesus told these sinners (and through them he also told us) that he loves them. This is sometimes hard for us to get through our heads. No matter what I do, Jesus still loves me and wishes to dine with me. Jesus is love; he cannot not love. He loves us and forgives us.
I think we tend to forget that the Eucharist is also a great Sacrament of forgiveness. We usually look to the Sacrament of Penance for that, but the reminder that the Eucharist is also a Sacrament of forgiveness is at the beginning of every Mass with the penitential rite. This was there before the Sacrament of Penance developed in the Church.
We are all sinners and do not deserve or earn the right to sit at table with Jesus. But it is because we are sinners that he invites us to come to him and eat with him, to receive his Body and Blood for our spiritual nourishment and betterment. Let us accept his invitation to come and eat with him often.
Wednesday of the Third Week of Easter, April 21
John 6: 35-40
By this time we should all be aware that it is God’s will that all people who believe in Jesus receive eternal life and will be raised up on the last day. I believe it was just a week ago that our Gospel quoted John 3: 16 where it says that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, so that everyone (all) who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.
Remember that we said then that John 3: 16 is special because it tells us that God loves the world. And we remarked then that the Greek word kosmos can mean not only world but all of humankind that makes up the world. We said that the world was people and the people that believe in Jesus will have eternal life, the life of God that begins here and now and will culminate in the life to come. Those who are so gifted will not hunger or thirst for this eternal life because Jesus is this life and he gives us the bread and drink we need for our spiritual growth and nourishment.
The members of the Kingdom are indeed blessed by God, and it is up to us to show our thanks to God and our appreciation for these gifts of faith and life. Jesus, thank you, and may my ministry and my life show how much I love you.
Thursday of the Third Week of Easter, April 22
John 6: 44-51
“Everyone who listens to my Father and learns from him comes to me – and I will raise them on the last day.”
Jesus tells us in the Gospel today that we are to listen to his Father if we are to be his followers. We have extolled the virtue of listening to God many times in these homilies in the past. We must pay attention to what God tells us and then carry it out, do it. Then, and only then, will we come to him and be raised on the last day.
Listening is giving the Lord our full attention. A good Scripture to read regarding listening to God is the story of Martha and Mary in the Gospel of St. Luke. Mary sat at the feet of Jesus and listened to every word he said. Luke uses this story to show us how to love God with our whole heart, mind, soul and strength. Do I love Jesus enough to listen to him in this way, to give him my whole attention?
Friday of the Third Week of Easter, April 23
John 6: 52-59
Sitting here reading the Eucharistic minded Gospel selected for today’s Liturgy, I started to think about what an absolutely wonderful gift we have in the Eucharist and how we take it for granted. I see people, good people, filing up to the communion stations to receive the Body and Blood of Christ, the Risen Savior, and they are carrying on a conversation, chewing gum, adjusting their hair, bowing up and down, and Lord knows what else. And I wonder if they are truly aware of who and what it is that they are about to receive.
In the 19th century, it was customary to receive Eucharist once or maybe twice a year. Around 1900, at the turn of the century, it was Pope Pius X who made it possible for us to receive Eucharist weekly and even daily if we so chose. And more recently, we were granted the privilege of receiving Eucharist as often as we attend Mass. This is wonderful – but it can contribute to the complacency we were speaking about a few moments ago. We get used to receiving the Sacrament. The only way around this that I can think of is for us to focus more, to pay more attention to what it is we are doing and who and what it is that we are receiving.
Lord, you have given us your very flesh to eat and your blood to drink for our spiritual nourishment. Please help us to be more aware of this gift you give.
Saturday of the Third Week of Easter, April 24
John 6: 60-69
Today’s Gospel closes the 6th chapter of St. John’s Gospel that we have been reading all this past week. It is, of course, John’s Eucharistic chapter and one beautiful piece of writing. At the end of today’s Gospel message, we see some of the disciples leaving Jesus because of their inability to believe he could give us his flesh to eat and his blood to drink.
We saw yesterday how we sometimes take this gift of the Eucharist for granted and perhaps don’t realize what we are doing when we receive the Eucharist. In a way, this amounts to a lack of faith on our part too. As we finish this chapter and John’s treatment of the gift of the Eucharist, let us pray that God will give us the added grace of paying more attention to what it is that we are doing. It really is a shame to take any gift, let alone a gift from God himself, for granted.