3ec 2013Homily for Mass – Third Sunday of Easter (Year C)

(Saint Bernardine’s Church, Regents Park: Saturday 6pm;  Sunday 7.30am & 9am)

14 April 2013

(Readings: Acts 5:27-32, 40-41;  Ps 29;  Apoc 5:11-14;  John 21:1-19)

 At this time we hear a lot of news about our new Pope.  He has certainly captured everyone’s attention, even beyond the Church.  One of the questions I’m asked the most at the moment is, “what do you think of the new Pope?” or some variation on that theme.  So it’s interesting today that our Easter readings lead us to focus on the person of Saint Peter, of whom our Holy Father Francis is the successor.

In today’s Gospel we hear about Peter’s excitement to see the Lord; so excited that he jumps into the water;  and we hear his threefold declaration of love.  We also hear – in the First Reading – Peter defying the high priest and declaring that obedience to God comes before obedience to mortals.  We might wonder: is this the same Peter as before?  This is the man who at the Last Supper, had said that he was more ready than the others to lay down his life for Jesus.  But then, beside the charcoal fire, had denied three times that he even knew Jesus (1).

We know that after Peter denied Jesus, the Lord turned and looked at Peter – a look that must have broken Peter’s heart, because it moved him to weep bitterly (2).  But those tears moved Peter to repentance, and “spiritual transformation is usually connected to the grace of repentance” (2).  So now, by another charcoal fire, this time on the beach, Jesus heals Peter’s wound and causes Peter to reaffirm his love for Jesus – and indeed recalling Peter’s own declaration at the Last Supper – “Do you love me more than these others?”

But this isn’t just about Peter’s personal relationship with Jesus.  Jesus had already said to Peter at the Last Supper, “Once you have turned back [i.e. that is, repented] you must strengthen your brothers.”  And so, as Peter three times affirms his love, making up for his three-fold denial, Jesus declares that the relationship between him and Peter will touch many others: “Feed my lambs … tend my sheep … feed my sheep.”  “There is a sense that the abundant love of Jesus and Peter for each other overflows to embrace many others” (1).

And this – to come back to where I started – this is where I think Saint Peter’s present day successor comes in.  Pope Francis continues this work – given to Peter – of feeding and tending the lambs and sheep of the Lord.  He continues the work of strengthening the others.

And so, just as the relationship of Jesus and Peter was meant to draw others into relationship with the Lord, as we see our Holy Father Francis live out his faith, and live out the commission given first to Saint Peter, we should reflect on our own faith.  Each of us should hear Jesus asking us: “Do you love me?”  When we hear Jesus speaking to us, are we moved to repentance? – to leave behind sin in our own lives?  Are our hearts so filled with the Lord’s love that we want to share that love with others?  Are we eager to bring others to know the Lord?

In coming to worship this morning, we enter into the praise spoken of in the book of Revelation.  We join the immense number of angels and people, and indeed of everything living in creation crying to the Lord: “To the One who is sitting on the throne and to the Lamb, be all praise, honour, glory and power, for ever …”  As this song of praise wells up in our hearts may our faith be kindled and strengthened, so that we will love the Lord with all our heart, and allow this love to embrace others as well.

 

(1)   Archbishop Terrence Prendergast, SJ, Living God’s Word: Reflections on the Sunday Readings for Year C.  Toronto, Novalis, 2012, pp. 68-70.

(2)   The Word Among Us: Daily Meditations for Catholics, April 2013, p. 34.

(3)   Dr Scott Hahn, http://www.salvationhistory.com/homily_helps/april_14th_2013_-_3rd_sunday_in_easter