Third Sunday of Easter
Reading I Acts 5:27-32, 40-41
Psalm 30:2-6, 11-13
Reading II Revelations 5:11-14
Gospel John 21:1-19
If I were to ask all of you right now if you had breakfast this morning, the majority of you would say, “Yes.” Did you ever stop to think what that phrase means. When you sleep at night and have a good night’s sleep you are resting; you are not eating and you are not drinking. When you get up you in the morning you are breaking the fast. At breakfast you start to eat again and you nurture you body in a very normal way.
What Jesus was saying to his disciples and is saying to all of us today, is, “For forty days I asked you to fast. I asked you to go within yourself to see what needed to be changed, how you wanted to redirect your life. I got into the messiness of your lives but I wanted to find a way to get my message across — so I washed your feet. Then I gave you my body and my blood to eat and drink. Then I invited you to watch me hang on the cross and bleed to death for your sins.
“But then I came back and I rose from the dead. And now here we are, and I am asking you — have you followed me through that experience of fasting, and the messiness of my life because the question is, will you follow me? Will you take care of each other and feed my sheep?”
Every symbol, every word, that Jesus uses has a definite meaning. When they talk about 153 fish, what Jesus is really saying to us is, “I have come. And I have suffered and died for the whole world. No one is exempt, but you can exempt yourself.”
So that is why Jesus said, “Come on over, guys. When you put your net out on your own you were doing it as fishermen. You expected to get your normal catch, but you didn’t. But when I ask you to lower your net on the other side, the net became full of fish. I fulfill my promise — I will never let you be without my love.” But then he says, “Soon I am going to be with the Father, and I have to know whether or not you are willing to break that fast and live the joy of Easter, and if you are going to be my people — and that is what we call the Church. I want to know, ‘Will you take care of each other?’ ”
If you study the Aramaic language you will see that when Jesus asked the first time, “Do you love me” it would be as if I said to all of you, “Do you love people in general?” And you would answer, “Sure I do.”
The second time he asks “Do you love me” would be, “Do you love everybody here this morning? Do you like your own family?” And you would answer, “Yes, I do.”
But the third time he asks “Do you love me” is a change totally different in Aramaic but in English it all comes out the same, and what Jesus is asking is, “Will you die for me?” And all of a sudden the answer becomes, “Well, let me think about that.”
Jesus says, “No. I need an answer. I’m going home to the Father pretty soon. Don’t stutter. You don’t have time to think about it. If I haven’t given you enough to believe me and to know that I am the Son of God, then you just keep putting your net on that side of the boat. But I guarantee you, those who put their nets on the right side of the boat — they are going to be filled with so much love and happiness. It’s not going to be an easy road but I will always be with them.”
We have just witnessed the elect and the candidates being brought into the church on Easter Vigil. If we could have one of those people stand up here and tell us what happened and why he or she decided to join the Catholic faith. We asked them at different stages the question that Jesus asked his disciples but with different words: “Do you love me?” Soon it got to Lent, and then was the Right of Election and the question was asked again: “Do you love me?” For three Sundays we did the Scrutinies: “Do you love me?” Next came the experience of Holy Week and the Triduum. And at the end of the Triduum the question was asked once more, “Do you really love me?”
To see that progression in their lives was amazing. You and I go through this experience of Lent and the Triduum each year and Jesus says, “You are going to have to do this to stay alive in my Kingdom. I can’t let you fall asleep. You are going to have to be awake because when I say, “Lower the net on the right side, I mean lower it and do it now! That’s the only way you are going to know how much — I love you.”
So this morning I know that all of you would do anything to help one another. If one of you needed my kidney I would give it to you if it were a match. If someone needs another person to hold her hand, would you be there to hold that hand? If someone you know is driving you up the wall, will you still listen to him? Will you step out of your box and know that you have enough faith to move mountains because when you come up here in a few minutes and you say “Amen” to the body of Christ, and you say “Amen” to the blood of Christ — that is Jesus saying to each one of us, “I still want to know, do you really love me?”
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Monsignor Michael Kuse is pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Quincy, Illinois.
(TASCAM DR 40 file 0039)