3rd Sunday in Easter Time
Acts 5:27-32, 40-41. Rev 5:11-14; John 21:1-19
In 1748 during the battle of Nile aboard the French Ship Orient, there took place a great and heroic event of trust. Commander Louse de Casabianca asked his young son Giocante to wait for his order to leave the deck. The boy stood on the deck waiting for his father’s orders. The ship caught fire. Flames rose to the sky. He was surrounded by flames. Finally he called out,
“Say father, say, if yet my task is done”
But the poor little boy did not know that his father was lying dead and cold in the bottom of the ship. He stood on the burning deck with absolute trust in his father.
“Speak, father! Once again he cried.
“If I may yet be gone!”
While over him fast, through sail and shroud
The wreathing fires made way.
Felicia Cortothea Hemans immortalized the trust of Giocante in the poem Casabianca.
As Giocante showed unwavering trust in his father we see Peter expressing his unchallengeable trust in Jesus. Peter and his companions went out fishing but they caught nothing in the night. In the morning Jesus stood on shore and told them, “Throw your net out to the starboard and you will find something.” Without any hesitation Peter did so. John emphasizes that they had a great catch. This is the second time that Peter shows his absolute trust in the words of Jesus.
By the lake of Gennesaret, Jesus once got into the boat of Simon Peter, and asked him to cast the net into the deep sea. Simon Peter replied, Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.(Lk 5:4).
In spite of all these , after the crucifixion of Jesus Peter gave up his hope. His declaration, “I am going fishing” indicates his giving up and returning to the old style of life. But the words, “It’s the Lord” transforms him. The world has never been the same for Peter. The realization of the fact of resurrection of Jesus transformed everything for him. It transformed everything for the apostles. They spread throughout the world and turned the Roman Empire upside down. Empires fell before them and kings did obeisance.
The realization, “It is the Lord” transformed them into men of courage. Today’s first reading enumerates the heroic deeds of the Apostles. The timid men who confined themselves into the rooms behind closed doors come out and proclaims the resurrection of Jesus with unrelenting boldness
The realization, “It is the Lord” transformed them into men of principle. They refused to heed to the warnings of the Sanhedrin and declared that in all circumstances obedience to God should come first. Above all it gave them a clear vision of their function.
As Peter gave up his hope and trust for a moment and declared, “I am going fishing”, we too give up- we give up our communion with the church; we give up our hope in the benevolence of God; we give up our faith in humanity. At these dark moments the declaration of the Apostle, “It is the Lord” that the Lord is with us to enkindle our hope and trust should give us strength and courage to count on Him.
Peter’s trust in Jesus brought him new responsibilities. Jesus wanted Peter to profess his faith in Him before others. It brought him a task. Jesus said, “If you love me feed my sheep.” And it brought him a cross. Jesus said, when you were young you put on your own belt and walked where you liked; but when you grow old you will stretch on your hands, and somebody else will put a belt round and take you where you would rather not go.
On the shore of Gennesaret Jesus used Peter’s boat as a platform to convey His teachings to the people. Now Jesus uses Peter himself as an instrument to impart his message to the Jews and Gentiles alike.
Our hope and trust in Jesus entrust us with the responsibility of bearing witness to his life and teachings as did Peter and the Apostles.
Cycle C 2nd Sunday in Easter time
Acts 5:12-16; Ap 1:9-13, 17-19; John 20:19-31
After the death of Jesus, for fear of the Jews the Apostles confined themselves to a closed room. They received the news of the resurrection of Jesus from many sources. He was seen by the women who visited the tomb. Peter saw the empty tomb. He appeared to the apostles themselves. But these testimonies did not give them enough courage to come out and proclaim the reality of resurrection. They remained behind the closed doors. Again Jesus appeared to them and greeted them, “Peace be with you.”
“Peace” is the first word that came from the lips of Jesus on meeting his Apostles. “Peace be with you. (Jn 20:19). Then Jesus gave them the power to forgive sins. Jesus knew man’s weakness and the havoc sin causes in man’s heart. It destroys the peace and joy of every man.
One of the famous tragedies of William Shakespeare is Macbeth. When Macbeth was returning after a victory, he was met by three witches. The first witch greeted him, “Thane of Glamis”. The second witch greeted him “Thane of Cawdor”, and the third witch greeted him, “King hereafter”. As they disappeared messengers reached with the good news that he was appointed as the Thane of Glamis and Thane of Cawdor. Macbeth went home and shared this strange experience with his wife. She enkindled his hopes, and persuaded him to Murder Duncan, the king, who came to his house as his guest. As Macbeth thrust the dagger into the heart of Duncan he heard a voice, “Macbeth Sleep no more.” And “Macbeth has murdered sleep.” Thereafter Macbeth never had peace in his life. His life became miserable. In his frantic attempt to get peace he committed murder again and again.
When Macbeth sinned against the king he lost his peace. Jesus was aware that sins destroy the peace of man. So when he wished them “peace” he also granted them the power to destroy sin. To destroy a powerful enemy we need a powerful weapon. Jesus put this weapon in the hands of the church when communicating to his Apostles the power to forgive sins through the sacrament of Reconciliation. Jesus said to the apostles
“Those whose sins you forgive,
they are forgiven:
Those whose sins you retain,
they are retained.”
Jesus knew well that the disobedience of man, the excessive desire of man for wealth, the selfishness of man, the hatred that brews up in the heart of man, causes separation from God. And this separation destroys the peace of man. Isaiah warned the Israelites, “Your iniquities have separated you from your God.”(Is 59:2) And this separation from God is unbearable. David, the chosen king of Israel, experienced it when he broke the command of the Lord and he Lamented, “Do not withhold your tender mercies from me, O Lord” (Ps 40:1). God commanded Adam and Eve, “Do not eat the fruit of this tree.” But when they disobeyed him they were estranged from God and they wanted to hide. This separation was miserable. And they lost their peace.
As sin destroys internal peace Jesus strictly commanded his disciples to love their enemies, and to return good for evil (Mt 5:44). Jesus ratified his teaching with his own example as he hung on the cross. He prayed, “Father forgive them” (Lk 23:24).
The estrangement that happened because of sin is bridged by Jesus (Eph 2:14) and Jesus gave the power to his Apostles to forgive sins and re-establish peace. St Paul wrote to the Romans affirming this message that God has called us to peace. God expects us to keep His commandment, and in return He gives us his peace. Proverbs tells us “When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” (Prov.16:7)
For peace and joy to prevail in the Christian community, unity should be maintained. That is the message of the First Reading taken from the Acts of the Apostles. The Apostles taught the early Christians that three things are necessary to foster unity.
So they gathered regularly in the Portico of Solomon. The early Christians came together regularly under the leadership of the apostles. And today we should gather in the church, the house of God regularly. And this communion will certainly give us power and strength to remain united, forgetting all the differences.
Secondly, they listened to the teaching of the Apostles. We, too, must listen to the word of God and reflect over it. It will give us courage to fight our ego.
When the early Christians remained united under the leadership of the Apostles they worked wonders. The sick were even taken out into the streets and laid on beds and sleeping mats, in the hope that at least the shadow of Peter might fall across.
Today the risen Lord stands in our midst and greets us too, “Peace be with You.” Let’s translate this message into action and pass on to our brothers and sisters. When you take initiative in patching up an estranged relationship with your friend, when you forgive a dishonest act of your friend, when you show kindness to someone, when you appease the anger of your friend, when you find time to re-establish a broken relationship, when you persuade someone to give up some evil habits you are giving the message, “Peace be with you”. And the peace that you radiate will come back to you manifold.
Cycle C Easter
Alexander the great went to Corinth, to see the great philosopher, Diogenes of Sinope. Alexander was thrilled to meet him. He wished to do him some favour. But Diogenes replied, “Give me a little of immortality.”
Dear brothers and sisters man’s search for immortality is as old as man himself. In the Biblical accounts of creation we read that the serpent tempted Eve with the promise that if she ate the fruit she would become like God. And Eve could not resist that offer. She disobeyed God’s command with the desire to become like God.
The Epic poem from Mesopotamia, “Epic of Gilgamesh” describes the attempts of Gilgamesh to learn the secret of eternal life. He under took long and perilous journey to find the secrets of immortality. Finally he was told, “Gilgamesh, what you seek, you will never find.”
So it was concluded that human life comes to an end with death. Therefore it is engraved on the tombstones, “Here lies Caesar”, “Here lies David”, “Here lies John”.
But there is one tomb in the world that is empty, and the tomb stone does not bear any engraving on it. That is the tomb lent to Jesus by Joseph of Aramathea. The occupant of the tomb has overcome death and came to life again.
At dawn, when the women reached the tomb of Jesus two men stood by them in flashing raiment and asked them “Why look among the dead for someone who is alive?”
The angels conveyed to them that Jesus has risen from the dead. And he is no more to be searched among the dead.
Shakespeare is dust, and will not come
To question from his Avon tomb,
And Socrates and Shelley keep
An Attic and Italian Sleep,
They see not. But O Christians
May you not meet in spite of death,
A traveler from Nazareth?
The accounts of Jesus’ resurrection enkindled the spirit of Peter. Only Peter went out to experience it by himself. The story of his denial of his Master was not a thing that could be kept silent; and yet he had the courage to face those who knew his shame. He ran to the tomb. He bent down and saw the binding cloths. He went back home amazed. Peter realized the messianic prophecies and the teachings of Jesus.
The Psalmist says, “For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell: neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (Ps. 16:10). In other words, though the Messiah had been buried, He would be resurrected according to the appointed time of God. He would not be in burial forever but rather He was there to fulfil the Scriptures concerning His death. He must be resurrected from the dead to prove that the power of death could not overpower Him.
During the ministry Jesus did frequently inform His disciples about His death and resurrection. In fact Jesus made the comparison between His resurrection and the life of Jonah in the belly of the fish, similarly the Son of Man would be resurrected from the dead after three days (Matt 12:40).
Peter began to realize the relation between these teachings and the reality of resurrection. Peter is now confident of his faith. His sermon bears adequate testimony to that fact. Peter declared, “You killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witness.”
The words, “Jesus is alive!” were enough to create a great spiritual hunger in the disciples where emptiness existed because of his death. May these words wipe out the darkness in us and enkindle our spirits.