Sunday, 5 May 2019 : Third Sunday of Easter (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, the third in the season of Easter, we are all reminded of the calling that the Lord has called us all Christians to do, as part of the whole Universal Church that He has established in this world. All of us as Christians are called to be the witnesses of the Lord’s truth and resurrection, to follow in the footsteps of the Apostles and all those who have courageously stood by their faith as shown in our Scripture passages today.

In our first reading today, we heard of the courage of the Apostles, led by St. Peter, when they were faced with opposition and heavy persecution by the Sanhedrin, the powerful and influential High Council of the Jewish people. The Sanhedrin were filled with many of those who opposed the truth of Christ and who have also been among those who ordered the arrest and condemned the Lord Jesus to death, handing Him over to the Roman authorities to be crucified.

When the Apostles were told harshly and specifically under threat of torture and imprisonment by the authority of the Sanhedrin to stop preaching the truth of Christ, His resurrection and the salvation He has brought into this world, the Apostles, filled with the power and the courage of the Holy Spirit refused to back down and continued to be adamant in their commitment to bear witness for the Risen Lord. None of the Sanhedrin were able to stop the Apostles, and from then on, the Apostles continued their work among the people despite the heavy opposition from many groups.

What they were doing, was basically fulfilling what the Lord had called them to be, to be the fishers of men, when He first called some among them, especially St. Peter the Apostle, leader of the Apostles, who was called with his brother, St. Andrew the Apostle, and the two brothers, St. James the Apostle and St. John the Apostle, from being mere unknown and poor fishermen of Galilee, to be God’s own servants in calling His people to Himself.

In our Gospel passage today, God again called the Apostles, harking back to the first time He called them, as He appeared before them by the lake of Galilee right after His resurrection. The disciples were told to go to Galilee and to wait for the Lord there, and there, they spent their time fishing for fish without managing to make any catch at all despite having spent all the time on the boat all night long.

And in this symbolism laden Gospel passage, we can see the summary of what the Lord has called all of us to do, just as He called His Apostles to do what He had entrusted to them and commanded them to do. He told the Apostles to cast their nets to the side of their boat, and immediately, as they did what the Lord told them to do, an immense number of fishes were caught into their fishing nets, so many that the boat almost could not contain all of them.

In this, we see how the Lord truly guides His Church, and the Church is represented by the boat in which the Apostles worked in. The Church is indeed often represented with the imagery of a boat, sailing through the turbulent and dark waters. And the Apostles who helmed the boat are those who steered the Church through the times of opposition, persecution and challenge, just as what we have just heard in our first reading today, the persecution and opposition of the Sanhedrin among many others the Church had to endure.

The multitudes of fishes represent the multitudes of nations and peoples to whom the Apostles had been sent to proclaim the truth of the Lord and His Good News. Without the Lord to guide them, the Church and the Apostles could do nothing, just as they did not manage to get any fishes despite having laboured all night long and not catching any fish at all. But through the Lord’s works, which He performed through His Apostles, the Church and all those who succeeded the Apostles, the works of the Church came to present rich results and bounties.

And brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all the successors of the Apostles and those disciples to whom the Lord has entrusted the mission which He has bestowed upon His Church, with the clear words of instruction, “Go to all the nations and baptise all in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” And that is the Great Commission which Our Lord has given to His Church, to all of us who believe in Him, as our mission and responsibility.

We may think that what the Lord has called us to do is impossible to be done, or that it is too difficult, too daunting or too challenging. We may think that the Apostles and those disciples mentioned in the Scriptures were kind of superhuman who were given power beyond our normal human means and abilities. No, brothers and sisters in Christ, this is not true at all. For indeed, they were truly superheroes and are great role models for us, but they are equally just man just like us all.

It is a dangerous fallacy to think of the Apostles as people who are fundamentally different from us. They have been given the same ability as we have been blessed by God, and they are not more human or less human than we are. They are no less mortal than we are, lest we think of them as supernatural or even, as some misunderstood them in the early days of the Church, as divine beings. When the Apostles St. Paul and St. Barnabas went to the Greek areas of the Eastern Mediterranean, some of the people there worshipped the Apostles as if they were gods, to their great consternation.

No, brothers and sisters in Christ, the Apostles are just like us all, for they were too once sinners who were weak and easily tempted, who were ignorant and resistant to the faith and to the love of God. We must not forget that the Lord called them from various origins, some from among the educated, while others were poor peasants, uncouth, uneducated and even uncivilised. People looked down and despised some of them, like St. Matthew, a former tax collector.

The Apostles were also once cowards and doubters, who lost their faith the moment the Lord was arrested, and all of them abandoned the Lord and ran away. St. Peter in fact, as we all know, denied knowing the Lord not just once, but three times so that he could save himself and prevent himself from being arrested together with the Lord, and all these happened after the Apostle swore that he would even lay down his life for the Lord’s sake.

But the Lord empowered them and gave them a new strength and courage, by the granting of His Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and the Lord Jesus Who gave them the power and the authority of His own power, to be the bearers of His truth and His champions in this darkened world, to be those who would bear the burden of being the ones to be at the forefront of the Church’s effort to seek the salvation of souls.

And the same St. Peter, who had denied knowing the Lord three times out of cowardice, in our Gospel passage today publicly and resolutely declared his obedience, love and commitment towards God, as the Lord Jesus asked him, not just once but thrice, “Peter, do you love Me?” This action is very symbolic and significant as it is the clear sign that not only that God had perfectly forgiven St. Peter for his threefold rejection of Him, three being a number often used throughout the Scripture to represent completeness and perfection, but also that He has indeed entrusted and bestowed on St. Peter and through him, the other Apostles, the very important responsibility and the authority that comes with that responsibility, to carry out the mission which He has entrusted to His Church.

The Apostles were imperfect, mortal and unworthy men, who embraced God’s love and grace, and by the Holy Spirit of God, received the strength and courage that allowed them to perform all that God had done through them. They allowed God to work His miracles and wonders, His merciful and compassionate works through them, by changing their lives and turning them from sinners and people belonging to the darkness, into the people of the light.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the very reason why many of us have not been able to experience this same experience as what the Apostles had witnessed and felt, and why we have not been able to walk in their footsteps is nothing less than our own refusal in refusing to allow God to make His works evident in our lives and through us. This requires us to overcome the challenges of the ego and pride within us, which are obstacles that often prevented us from being able to reach out to God.

Are we willing and are we able to allow God entering into our lives and making a difference not just in our own lives but also in the lives of all those who are around us, through our renewed and transformed lives, by the power and grace of God as He has done through His Apostles? Let us all spend some time to reflect on how we can make this happen, and that is by making ourselves willing and collaborative vessels of the Lord’s grace.

The Apostles and all our holy predecessors, all those who have dedicated themselves to the Lord could not have done so without the Lord being present in their midst and directing their efforts and actions. God made everything possible and He guided them all through the darkest and most difficult moments as was evident throughout the history of the Church. It was God Who made everything possible, and the Apostles and the holy disciples and martyrs allowed Him to guide them in their path and in their actions.

Let us all, as Christians, meaning that we are the successors and the inheritors of the ministry and the works of the Apostles, gather together and commit ourselves anew to the Lord, to the mission which He has entrusted to His Church. Let us all be the bearers of God’s truth and be the workers of God, in everything we say and do that many more people may come to believe in God and be saved, by following our examples and by being faithful in the way that we have been faithful. May God be with us all, and may He bless all of our good works and endeavours. Amen.

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