Third Sunday of Easter – C

Readings: Acts 5: 27-32, 40f. Rev 5:11-14 Jn 21:1-19 (or 1-14)

LOVE CHANGES EVERYTHING

  • A girl wanted a ring. But the boy gave a teddy bear instead. In anger the girl threw the bear on the road. The boy went to take it back but he was hit by a coming car and died. At his funeral, the girl hugged the bear and the machine in it spoke: ”Will you marry me?” Guess what! She found a ring inside it. But it was too late…
  • A girl gave a challenge to her boyfriend to live a day without her. No communication at all and said if he passed it, she wouldl love him forever. The boyfriend agreed. He never texted or called his girlfriend for the whole day without knowing his girlfriend had only 24 hours left because she was dying of cancer. The next day he excitedly went to his girlfriend, “I did it baby” but imagine his grief when he saw his girlfriend lying in a coffin with a note “You did it baby … now please do it everyday… I Love You.”
  • There was is story which I read in a book entitled “Chicken Soup for the Soul” authored by two great American writers Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. The title of the story is, “The Circus.” It was told like this:“Once when I was a teenager, my father and I were standing in line to buy tickets for the circus. Finally, there was only one family between the ticket counter and us. This family made a big impression on me. There were eight children, all probably under the age of 12; you could tell they didn’t have a lot of money. Their clothes were not expensive, but they were clean. The children were well behaved, all of them standing in line, two by two behind their parents, holding hands. They were excitedly jabbering about the clowns, elephants and other acts they would see that night. One could sense they had never been to the circus before. It promised to be a highlight of their young lives.“The father and mother were at the head of the pack standing proud as could be. The mother was holding her husband’s hands, looking up at him as if to say, ‘You’re my knight in shining armor.’ He was smiling and basking in pride, looking at her as if to reply, ‘You got that right.’“The ticket lady asked the father how many tickets he wanted. He proudly responded, ‘Please let me buy eight children’s tickets and two adult tickets so I can take my family to the circus.’“The ticket lady quoted the price.“The man’s wife let go of his hand, her head dropped; the man’s lip began to quiver. The father leaned a little closer and asked, ‘How much did you say?’“The ticket lady again quoted the price.“The man didn’t have enough money.

    “How was he supposed to turn and tell his eight kids that he didn’t have enough money to take them to the circus?

    “Seeing what was going, my dad put his hand into his pocket, pulled out a $20 bill and dropped it on the ground. We were not wealthy in any sense of the word! My father reached down, picked the bill, tapped the man on the shoulder and said: ‘Excuse me, sir, this fell out of your pocket.’

    “The man knew what was going. He was not begging for a handout but certainly appreciated the help in a desperate, heartbreaking and embarrassing situation. He looked straight into my dad’s eyes, took my dad’s hands in both of his, squeezed tightly onto the $20 bill, with his lip quivering and a tear streaming down his cheek, he replied: ‘Thank you, thank you, sir. This really means a lot to me and my family.’

    “My father and I went back to our car and drove home. We didn’t go to the circus that night, but we didn’t go without.”

    A certain Dan Clark told this story. How about if we are on the same situation, can we do the same?

In our Gospel today, Jesus asks Peter three times: “Do you love me?” Many would say that these three questions of Jesus are related to Peter’s threefold denial of Jesus in the night of his arrest. They see Peter’s affirmation of love. “Lord, you know that I love you,” as erasing his threefold denial of Jesus. In other words, it allows Peter to make amends for his past and to redeem himself.

Today’s First Reading narrates the fact of preaching by the disciples of Jesus in the Temple. Indeed the Temple became an attractive place for them to preach the good news. While they were teaching the captain the Temple guards move to the place to arrest the disciples. They were taken before the Council and were accused for continuing to preach in the Name of Jesus even after the warnings they received. As leader of the group, Peter speaks on behalf of the disciples before the council. He courageously tells them that they must obey God rather than any human authority. They show the authorities that the reason for their courage is the Resurrection of Jesus and the presence of the Spirit. Peter tells them that they were witnesses to the events surrounding the crucifixion of Jesus, his glorious Resurrection and his ascension into Heaven. Secondly, they had the commission from Jesus to “Go into the entire world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.” It was indeed an open challenge and at the same time a direct insult to the authorities. They were certainly furious at the reply of the Apostles. They were flogged forty strokes and then released. They had to bear the pain and yet Peter and the Apostles rejoiced because they were considered worthy to have suffered for the sake of Jesus. Because of their pure and unshaken loyalty, they choose to suffer.

The Second Reading from the Book of Revelation calls us to be a witness to our faith with consistency and courage. In this reading we are told that John in his vision heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In this vision John sees Christ under the image of a lamb that is slain but now is the centre of worship and adoration of Angels and men. John sees a huge multitude of creatures thousands and thousands of them, surrounding Christ and singing his praises. His divinity which he emptied from himself in order to save mankind is now restored to him. He is considered worthy of all homage that all creatures can give him, the human beings of the past, present and future, and all the heavenly beings. The one who sits on the throne of God is the lamb, Christ, the God-man the object of our worship. The four living creatures and the Elders worship him and give him honour and glory for all eternity. These creatures in servitude were professing that all power, wealth, wisdom, might, honour, glory and blessing belongs to Jesus. John in this passage reminds us that every creature shall bow before the Lamb of God and give praise to him.

Gospel: There are two places in Scripture where the curious detail of a “charcoal fire” is mentioned. One is in today’s Gospel, where the Apostles return from fishing to find bread and fish warming on the fire.

The other is in the scene in the High Priest’s courtyard on Holy Thursday, where Peter and some guards and slaves warm themselves while Jesus is being interrogated inside (see John 18:18).

At the first fire, Peter denied knowing Jesus three times, as Jesus had predicted (see John 13:38; 18:15-18, 25-27).

Today’s charcoal fire becomes the scene of Peter’s repentance, as three times Jesus asks him to make a profession of love. Jesus’ thrice repeated command “Feed My sheep” shows that Peter is being appointed as the Shepherd of the Lord’s entire flock, the head of his Church (see also Luke 22:32).

Jesus’ question: “Do you love me more than these?” is a pointed reminder of Peter’s pledge to lay down his life for Jesus, even if the other Apostles might weaken (see John 13:37; Matthew 26:33; Luke 22:33).

Jesus then explains just what Peter’s love and leadership will require, foretelling Peter’s death by crucifixion (“you will stretch out your hands”).

Before his own death, Jesus had warned the Apostles that they would be hated as he was hated, that they would suffer as he suffered (see Matthew 10:16-19,22; John 15:18-20; 16:2).

In Greek there are several different words translated by the one English word love. C.S. Lewis wrote wittily about them in “The Four Loves”. There is Storgé (affection) the quiet liking you might have for a neighbour who is agreeable and with whom you occasionally share a pleasantry. There is eros, a sensual or erotic love, the kind of love that can bond a couple along with their friendship and often leads to marriage. Then there is philia, meaning friendship, the admiring companionship we feel toward people with whom we share some significant interests. Finally there is agapé, which is largely generous and self-giving love, even when there is nothing tangible to be gained. (These are just generalised definitions and are not verified in every case for each of these terms).

Back to the Gospel story. Jesus asks Peter, “Agapas me – Do you have agapé for me?” meaning “Do you love me in such a manner as to sacrifice your life for me.” Peter knows that he has not lived up to this standard of love. He knows that he disowned Jesus in order to save his life. So what does Peter answer? He answers, “Philo se . Yes, Lord, I do have philia for you,” meaning, “Yes, Lord, you know how much I deeply admire you and how devoted I am to you.” You see why it is a confession of failure? Peter is saying to Jesus, “Yes, I love and admire you, but no, I have not been able to love you with a self-sacrificing love as you demand.” So Jesus asks him a second time whether he has agape for him and Peter again replies that he has philia for him. Finally, unwilling to embarrass him further, Jesus then asks him “Do you have philia for me?” And Peter answers “Yes, I have philia for you.” Jesus accepts Peter the way he is; even his friendship (philia) is good enough. Fullness of agapé can come later.

The Peter we see here is not the boastful man who thought he was better than the other disciples but a wiser, humbler heart that would not claim more than he can deliver. Peter’s confession is like that of the father of the possessed boy who said to Jesus, “I believe; help my unbelief!” What Peter is saying is “I love you, Lord; help my lack of love.”

In our worship services we often sing hymns that profess our love for Jesus, such as Oh, the Love of the Lord Is the Essence. Peter challenges us today to realise that hymns like these only tell half of the story. The other half is that there is a part of us that does not love, that denies the Lord when our life or our well-being is at stake. Peter’s example invites us to bring this negative experience to God for healing. So today, let us join Peter in his confession: “I love you, Lord; help my lack of love.”

We should accept that suffering – not in despair and self-pity, but “full of joy”. One job of reverses like suffering is to make sure we don’t get too comfortable and fall asleep and miss our life. Jesus’ Resurrection shows that through suffering and death one can achieve triumph. A little girl, upon finding a butterfly cocoon, brought it home. She waited with eager expectation until the day for the butterfly to come out finally arrived. A tiny head appeared, munching its way through the gray, paper-thin wall. She viewed the little creature with love, but was not prepared for how long it would take and how difficult a time the butterfly would have. With a small stick, ever so carefully, she decided to help the butterfly. Within moments instead of hours the butterfly was free. Then it tried to fly, but when it stretched its wings, it fell and died. “What happened?” the little girl pleaded, teary-eyed, to her father. “I even helped.” “The butterfly needed that struggle,” her father answered. “Without that, it was never able to strengthen its wings enough to fly.”

As in all these images, we are to be sensitive to coming to recognize his presence in family, friendships, community, and work.

LOVE IS NOT TO FORGET, BUT TO FORGIVE;

LOVE IS NOT TO SEE, BUT TO UNDERSTAND;

LOVE IS NOT TO HEAR, BUT TO LISTEN;

LOVE IS NOT TO LET GO, BUT TO HOLD ON FOREVER!

Fr. Gaspar Fernandes, OFM Cap.

This entry was posted in Easter Season, English, Friar Gaspar, Year C. Bookmark the permalink.