3rd Sunday of Easter – Year C.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“The Word Of The Risen Lord Guides The Christian Community”.
The Risen Christ now lives with the Father, but he has not abandoned his disciples. He continues to be present and directs our lives and work through his Word. Whenever the Christian communities follow his indications, then the results are extraordinary. This is represented in today’s Gospel by the large quantity of fish caught by the disciples.
In the second reading, these results are praised and sung by all creatures. They rejoice and praise Christ, their liberator, because now at last they can fulfill the plan God had prepared for them.
The first reading is about the difficulties and struggles that the Christian community must face to remain faithful to the word of its Master.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation, are from the published works of priests who have, by their Divine inspiration, become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word, we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“Allow the Spirit of God to break the chains that keep us from understanding and accepting the word of God.”
Acts 5:27b-32, 40b-41.
The first reading tells us how the disciples of Jesus, after the Resurrection, were taken before the Jewish high court for a second time. When Jesus warned his disciples that they would be brought before the Jewish courts, he promised them the assistance of the Holy Spirit. In Acts, Peter, whom fear had caused him to deny his Lord, found himself transformed when face-to-face with the Jerusalem Sanhedrin. The disciple was now like his Lord; God was for him now the first reality. He would obey God whatever the cost; he knew that the God who had raised Jesus from the dead, would protect him too.
To suffer humiliation for such a God was a source of pride and honour. At their first trial they were given a formal command not to do any more preaching about Jesus. Despite the warning, they kept on preaching, so they were arrested again. “You have filled Jerusalem with your teaching,” the court charged, “and you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us.” Peter and the disciples defended themselves, saying, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.” They then added: “The God of our ancestors Raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand.” Jesus has arisen from the dead; the person condemned by people as a dangerous enemy of society irrespective of God having placed him as the Saviour of humanity.
Passages in between, that are omitted, tell us that the Sanhedrin were ready to put them to death for their preaching and teaching. But then a teacher among them spoke up. Gamaliel, who had a reputation outside the Bible for being a wise rabbi, points out that what is from mortals generally falls apart, but what comes from God is unstoppable. He counsels them to let the men go. “If it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy it; you may even find yourselves fighting against God” (5:39). The apostles are released after a flogging, but they are so full of joy to have suffered for the name of Jesus that even the beating was sweet reward.
God’s plan was to save humanity in and through his Son. The Son, fulfilled this plan despite all the plans of those who opposed him. Indeed, the very death of Jesus on the Cross became central in God’s unfolding plan. People can make the same mistake even now, maybe in good faith: perhaps to defend what they think is the true religion, or to defend social order, or to protect the traditions of their ancestors. They thus persecute anybody wanting a new and more just world order, and oppose those who propose a religion and a community life closer to the Gospel tenets.
Psalm 30:2, 4-6, 11-13.
The Psalm was originally a song of thanksgiving by someone recovered from serious sickness. It is easily applied to the Christ praising his Father after his Resurrection or to Peter expressing gratitude for deliverance from his persecutors.
In the second reading, taken from the Book of the Apocalypse, John, in a vision, saw a myriad of angels around the throne of God praising the Lamb that was sacrificed. All living creatures joined in this chorus of praise. It is after this description that the second reading of today begins. The angels, all living creatures, all members of God’s people, joyful and grateful to the Lamb who, with his death and Resurrection, has revealed the deepest mysteries of human life, join voices in a song of praise. The dumb creatures also join in the chorus. What could this mean?
The song of creation has a deep significance. It goes to show that all creatures are finally freed from the bondage of sin. Yes, when people used them to commit sin, they were slaves, and did not serve the purpose God had created them for. The sacrifice of the Lamb has transformed the hearts of humankind. Redemption has finally come for them, that is why they join in the song of praise.
John thus teaches that God’s plan was unfolding successfully. This vision gives us hope. It also gives us the strength to take an ever more active part in its’ unfolding. We can look forward with certainty to the great celebration at its completion.
In the Gospel of John, this is the third and last appearance of Jesus after his Resurrection. As before, he appears to the apostles in the ordinary circumstances of life. This time they are fishing and things don’t go too well for them until Jesus lends a hand. It is through Jesus’ intervention that they are able to make a big catch. Jesus feeds them with fish and bread as he had done with the crowds earlier on. By this miracle, surely Jesus implied that henceforth they would be successful fishers of people.
All this talk about ‘not knowing it was Jesus’ leads us to believe that his glorified body was significantly different to the one before death. Mary, who loved him, had not recognized him near the tomb. His appearance must have undergone a substantial change.
What they had recognized, of course, were the signs of Jesus. Where there were no fish, suddenly there is abundance. Where they faced no breakfast after a thankless night at sea, suddenly there is a warm fire and bread and fish. Jesus distributes the food to them and they immediately know this “stranger” is the Lord.
Now follows Peter’s ‘triple confession of love’ for Jesus. He had denied him three times during his Passion. The triple confession of his love for Jesus reinstates him as a disciple with a responsibility as ‘Shepherd of Jesus’ flock’. When Jesus finally appears to them on the lake-shore, it is the beloved disciple, John, who recognizes that “it is the Lord”, but it is Peter who jumps overboard to meet him. In all these instances, the reader gets the impression that Peter appears only to enhance the ‘Beloved Disciple’ who always seems to have a deeper understanding and the better answer.
Yet in today’s Gospel, Peter is at the centre of the dialogue. It is to him that Jesus asks a very personal question. If the reader got the impression that John is more important than Peter, this is corrected in this last scene. Peter takes the central place and is given the task to be the ‘shepherd’ of the sheep. Jesus asks Peter three times the question: “Do you love me?” and three times Peter confesses his love for Jesus in spite of his limitations, which Jesus knows even better than Peter himself. Twice the question uses the word for love ‘agapas’ …the holy sort of love. But the third questioning uses the word for love ‘philios’, refering to friendship-type love that typically emerges among people with common interests or pursuits. The Greek language employs a variety of words for ‘love’ which are far more expressive.
Peter had denied Jesus three times, now three times he confesses that he loves Jesus. Just as the denial was around a charcoal fire, so now the new profession is around a charcoal fire, this time prepared by Jesus himself. The past sin is completely forgiven. There is now a conscious new beginning for Peter as a faithful disciple of Jesus, who will continue Jesus’ earthly ministry. To every confession of love from Peter, Jesus responds by giving Peter pastoral tasks: “Feed my lambs”, “Tend my sheep” and finally “Feed my sheep”. This is the essence of Christian leadership: to profess love often, and to remember in the exercise of authority that leaders are followers too. Only then are they fit to tend the lambs.
The role of Peter is given great focus. He is the one appointed to be the principal shepherd. According to the Old Testament, God is the Shepherd of his people and feeds them. Jesus applied this image to himself describing his relationship to the people as that of a Shepherd to the sheep. He now, after the Resurrection, gives this same responsibility to Peter. The final command of Jesus to Peter is “Follow me”. Peter will follow Jesus to the very end and will die as a witness to his Master.
The mission of Jesus is sustained by the Eucharist. The meal on the shore uses the food, which is the work of human hands. The number of fish, one hundred and fifty three, is a subtle link with Chapter 6, about the bread of life. That number is the sum of all the numbers from one to seventeen. Seventeen comes from adding the five loaves and the twelve baskets left over.
When we have fallen back into the old ways…when we have laboured under the darkness of night… and the nets come in empty…then we must believe in the Resurrection. It was light by now…and in this remembered light, peer through the mists of our doubt. There is ‘One’ on the shore who will direct us. Let us listen with love to his words. It is the Lord!
Whoever accepts to serve their brothers and sisters in the Christian community is asked to witness to Jesus till the end, to give their life for them just as the Good Shepherd and his first representative Peter did.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’.
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following 3rd Sunday of Easter Year C, we reflect on …
Sun. … The power of the Holy Spirit enabled Peter and the disciples to obey God whatever the cost. For them to suffer humiliation for God was a source of pride and honour. At our baptism and confirmation we, too, have received the Holy Spirit and we regularly receive the ‘Bread of Life’. Are we willing to obey God and do his will whatever the cost?
Mon. … Gamaliel points out in Acts. 5:39 that what comes from God is unstoppable. “If it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy it, you may even find yourself fighting against God”. Have you ever found yourself fighting against God about an issue in your life? Reflect on the outcome.
Tues. … Have we stubbornly, perhaps even defended in good faith, what we thought was right only to find out that those whom we were opposed to were promoting values which were closer to Gospel tenets? Before we take up a firm stand we should always ask ourselves first, “What would Jesus do?”
Wed. … The ‘Sacrifice of the Lamb’ has transformed humankind. Redemption has been offered to all who want it. Let us today join in a song of thanks and praise with our fellow Christians for God’s grace and gift of eternal life.
Thur. … In the Gospel of John, Jesus appears to us in the ordinary circumstances of life. We may not recognize that it is Jesus but his unmistakable signs are present. Where there is no love, suddenly there is abundance. We just need to open up our hearts to him and he will be with us to the end of time.
Frid. … Peter had denied Jesus three times. Judas had betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. How many times have we denied Jesus and his teachings in our lifetime for the false promises of the world? For how much less have we betrayed Jesus, sometimes for a fleeting moment of illicit gain or sinful pleasure? Today let us confess like Peter, our love for Jesus despite our limitations, which he knows all too well. For those of us who have lost our ‘Way’, let our profession of love to Jesus become the start of a new beginning in becoming his faithful disciples.
Sat. … Today the ‘Mission of Jesus’ is still being sustained by the Eucharist. When we truly become ‘One’ with our Lord and Saviour we are developing the Kingdom of God here on earth. Whenever the ‘temptor’ leads us into the ‘mists of doubt’ let us search for the ‘Light” of the ‘One’ on the shore who will direct us in the ‘Way’.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father, we pray that when we suffer pain and humiliation for You and our faith, we will regard it as an honour and blessing. Grant to us the grace to always be alert and ready to meet Jesus in the ordinary circumstances of life with open hearts. Today Father, we profess our Love for Jesus, our Saviour and Redeemer, despite our limitations that You know all too well. Whenever we are led by the ‘temptor’ into the ‘mists of doubt’ may the ‘Light’ of Christ’ lead us in the ‘Way’ and to the ‘Truth’.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives, and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.
Compliments: Bible Discussion Group.Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale.
“Discovering the Truth through God’s living Word”.