10 April 2016: Third Sunday of Easter

Reading 1 Response Reading 2 Gospel
 Acts 5:27-32, 40b-41  Ps 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11-12, 13  Rev 5:11-14  Jn 21:1-19

 

Jesus, revealed but often unseen

The Easter season readings ask us, the believing community, to examine the meaning of the resurrection. This week the readings focus on recognizing the resurrected Jesus.

The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles describes the growing conflict between the Jewish leaders and the apostles over their preaching. Peter and the apostles declare to the Sanhedrin that they “must obey God rather than men.” Peter and the apostles’ discipleship (“those who obey God”) is rooted in their witness to Jesus’ life and in the Spirit’s continuing presence.

The second reading from John of Patmos’ Revelation is a vision of the heavenly liturgy. Everyone and everything in the universe praises and worships God (“the one sitting on the throne”) and Jesus (“the Lamb who was slain”). The entire cosmos recognizes the Lamb, who is worthy to receive “honor and glory and blessing.”

The gospel from John the evangelist presents Jesus’ last post-resurrection appearance in two scenes: the first with fish, and the second with sheep.

  • A fish story: As in other post-resurrection stories (Lk 24:13-49, Jn 20: 19-31), the disciples do not recognize Jesus. Why is this? Is Jesus’ resurrected body completely different? The gospel authors, writing fifty years after the resurrection, tell us that Jesus reveals himself in biblical signs–such as messianic abundance (the miraculous catch of fish)–and liturgical gestures–such as the eucharist (the breaking and distributing of the bread). John reminds the believing community that Jesus is present among us when we see and experience sacramental signs: water, oil, bread, wine, and words.
  • A sheep story: Jesus invites Peter, who recently denied knowing Jesus, to restore his broken relationship. Peter, again before a charcoal file (see Jn 18: 18), is asked three times if he loves Jesus. Peter responds three times, “Yes, Lord, you know I am fond of you.” Jesus initiates this difficult conversation with Peter, forgives him, and honors him with the responsibility for caring for Jesus’ flock. Only after Peter expresses his metanoia (change of mind/heart), Jesus invites Peter to follow him. Like Peter, everyone’s discipleship depends on a personal relationship with Jesus. When we break that relationship, Jesus appears and invites us to return. This final scene with Peter tells us that no matter what we do, Jesus is ready to forgive us completely and forever.

Jesus’ resurrection has many meanings and many implications. The church’s Easter season gives us six weeks to reflect on this one cosmos-changing event; the Lectionary’s readings present stories, poems, songs, and visions to help us understand Easter from many viewpoints–lived human experience, mystery, faith, sacraments, theology. Jesus reveals himself in the witness of his disciples, in the liturgy, in the sacraments, and in our own personal encounters with the Lord. But we have to look, to gather, to be present, and to “dare to ask.” Do we recognize Jesus? Do we try to see him? Do we even look?

—Terence Sherlock

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