Sunday Sermon for April 14, 2013, the Third Sunday of Easter, Year C
Readings: Acts: 5:27-32, 40b-41; Rev 5:11-14; Jn 21: 1-19
In the second reading today we hear the voices of the Angels, countless in number, surrounding the Throne of God and singing praise to the Lamb Who was slain. After that we are told that every creature in Heaven, on earth, under the earth, in the sea and everything in the universe gave praise to God and to the Lamb. This is similar to what St. Paul tells us in his Letter to the Philippians when he says that every creature, even those condemned, will bend the knee at the Name of Jesus.
If every creature will be part of the praise given to God, then it is obvious that we, too, must give Him fitting worship and adoration. It is also evident that if even those under the earth will give the Lord glory and honor, then this will be required even from those who have rejected Him. For this reason, there are two groups of persons who can use their free will to choose to praise the Lord: the good angels and human persons in Heaven, in Purgatory and on earth.
This means that we can use our free will to praise the Lord now. This is important because if we are forced to do something it removes all merit from the act. If, on the other hand, we choose to do something out of love, we receive from God merit to match our charity.
In the other two readings we are shown several examples of how we can do this. First of all, the Apostles bear witness to Jesus before the Sanhedrin. Reiterating our faith in the face of opposition is a great act of love for God. The Apostles, we are told, also rejoiced that they were found worthy to suffer on behalf of the Name of Jesus. Recall that our Lord pronounced blessed those who suffer for His sake.
In the Gospel reading we hear about the Apostles out fishing when our Lord appears to them; following His instructions the Apostles haul in a large catch of fish. This obedience to the Lord is a great act of humility and charity. However, the opportunity our Lord gives them next is most important: He asks them to add some of their fish to the fish He already had cooking over the fire.
The loaves and fishes, of course, signify the Eucharist. What is important is that our Lord has the Apostles bring some of the fruit of their labor and add it to the fruit of His labor. He alone can give the Eucharist because He is the Eucharist. However, He allows each of us to be part of His work of salvation by adding something of our own to what He has accomplished. It is pretty simple to see how one could add a fish to what is already present, but what we have to add is not always so clear.
Our Lord is looking for our hearts. He asks us to consider what we put our effort into, whether that be things at home, at work, in places where we volunteer, in the pain and hardship that comes with certain relationships, etc. We can bring our sacrifices of time, effort, sorrow, pain, rejection, loneliness, and the like and unite them with His sacrifice at Mass. This is bringing some of our fish, some of the fruit of our labor, and giving it to Him.
We must be clear: He does not need anything from us, but He grants us this privilege to take part in what He is doing for souls. If we can see things this way we can begin to have a different disposition toward the events in our lives. Many things happen in a day that we did not plan and did not want. If we can see them as God’s will for us and give them to Jesus, then we can accept them, even be joyful about hardships like the Apostles as they were leaving the Sanhedrin. This will help us overcome any bitterness and lack of forgiveness because we are giving all of this to Jesus to add to the sacrifice which brings about joy and forgiveness.
Finally, we hear our Lord telling St. Peter that when he is older someone will dress him and lead him where he does not want to go. This is similar to what was mentioned above regarding the things that happen every day that we did not want. However, the disposition is what we need to consider. The manner of Peter’s death would not have had any merit if he were simply forced against his will. He had to choose it, to will it, like Jesus. The same holds true for us. In all these ways and more we can use our free will to praise the Lord.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.