Apr 11, 2013

3rd Sunday of Easter: Missionary Disciples in Communion

Acts 5: 27-32
Rev. 5: 11-14
Jn 21: 1-19

This 3rd Sunday of our Easter journey presents a familiar invitation of Jesus to his disciples and Simon Peter in particular: “Follow Me.” Put in context of this resurrection story, it has a powerful significance. (Jn 21: 1-19).

It seems Jesus repeats a miracle he had done early on with the fishermen/disciples (Lk 5: 1-11).  However, this time it is the risen Lord who calls out to the disciples who have gone fishing after the events of that tragic but good Friday and the alleged reports of his appearance on that Sunday.  An amazing drought of fish are caught once again at the word of Jesus from the shore in the early morning: “Cast the net . . . and you will find something” (Jn 21: 6). And indeed, once again as at the beginning, they pull ashore an abundance of fish – 153 to be exact as John tells us.

On the fateful Thursday last supper evening, Jesus shared a meal with his disciples.  One that we still remember today in our celebration of the Eucharist.  Here on the shore of the Sea of Tiberius (Lake Galilee), he shares another meal.  Not in the darkness of night but in the light of a new day.  One was the last supper – here is the first breakfast! 

As the risen Lord shared that breakfast as the early morning sun was rising, so too is he present to us in the Holy Eucharist. As on the shore of the Sea, the risen Lord breaks bread with us every time we celebrate. 

As the beautiful resurrection story continues, Jesus calls Peter to reconciliation.  Three times, as Peter had denied Jesus three times not long before, he asks: “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” (Jn 21: 15 – 19). As Peter is reconciled to the Lord, three times redeems himself, Jesus solidifies the position of Peter among the disciples – “Feed my sheep/lambs.” Then simply invites him: “Follow Me.”

It is profoundly different than the original invitation when he first encountered these fishermen along the Sea at the beginning of his public ministry.  There, they followed him to the cross; now they follow him out to the world to be witnesses to his death and resurrection. Such is also the journey of all who come to believe in the risen Lord.

For the Christians of the early years, as they lived this new “way” of life, this Gospel passage must have held a particular relevance.  The boat of the disciples on the open sea was a symbol of the church.  The water Peter trudged through to meet the Lord, a sign of baptism where we are plunged in and rise to meet the light of a new life. The fish, all 153 of them, and the net could be a reminder of how they too were caught in great numbers by the preaching and witness of the Apostles.  The fish, bread and fire and the risen Lord who breaks bread and shares it, a sign of the holy Eucharist, wherein Christ is alive and present to believers.

But, in the end, it is the glow and presence of the risen Lord Jesus, now in the light of a new day, that we are all called to follow. 

In that following, we too hear Jesus asking us, “Do you love me?” Pope Francis, when Archbishop in 2007, spoke a great deal about reform when President of the Latin American Bishop’s Conference.  Many think he hasn’t changed direction but now as Pope will be able to take those same themes and expand them even more globally.

As then Archbishop Bergoglio said, as we follow the Lord, we are sent out to be “missionary disciples in communion.” The lay faithful in particular and clergy by association are, “converted followers of Jesus, who together with others who share Jesus’ life, faithfully seek to spread their joy, life and love to those who have not yet come into that two-fold communion.”

In short, it isn’t just about coming to Church and caring for those who believe as I do.  It is about, “a community of believers trained and inspired to go out to transform politics, society, education, neighborhoods, family and marriages.

It is a brotherhood of Good Samaritans drawing near to neighbors with love and mercy.”

In light of such a challenge, it may be good for us to reflect on God’s call in our own lives. Am I willing to follow the Lord and trust that he will lead me?  Our lives as priests are filled with constant surprises.  We never really know what the day will be like – surprising and unpredictable for sure.  We never know who will call or who or what will pull us away from what we intended to accomplish that day. (A little like raising children actually.) I’m always surprised by this.  But, in the end I think Jesus’ invitation to “follow me” is spoken in many ways through the events of our lives and the people we meet.  Certainly, in times of prayer and reflection but it is often fleshed out in our human encounters. 

Like the disciples, we need to say from our boats: “It is the Lord!”  May our Eucharistic assemblies always be a force to compel us beyond our boats and our internal fishing that we may take up the call to follow the Lord with truth and love.

“Lord, help us to hear your call, to listen with attentive eyes and hearts, and to act out of love for you.”
May your people exult for ever, O God,
in renewed youthfulness of spirit,
so that, rejoicing now in the restored glory of our adoption,
we may look forward in confident hope
to the rejoicing of the day of resurrection.

(Collect - Roman Missal)