Deacon Cornellís Homily


Acts 5:27b-32,40b-41
Revelation 5:11-14
John 21:1-19


April 9-10, 2016, Third Sunday of Easter, Cycle C

Easter is always a very sacramental season, at least in this corner of the Archdiocese of Boston. Of course it starts at the Vigil when any who have not been baptized are initiated into the Church, to those baptized in Protestant traditions who are received into the full communion of the Catholic Church during the following Sundays. Here at St. Isidore and at St. Elizabeth of Hungary as well we celebrate First Communions, and in recent years, Confirmation. The Archdiocese usually ordains its new priests in May, and this year we have two marriages that will be celebrated in May at St. Isidore. We did not have any catechumens at St. Isidore this year so this weekend is the kickoff of our sacramental season. We have an infant baptism on Sunday and we will receive Corrie Gladyszak in the full communion of the Catholic Church. For those who might not know what that means, Corrie was baptized in a Protestant tradition when she was an infant. As we profess every time we say the Creed, we believe in one baptism for the forgiveness of sin so there is no need to baptize Corrie again. Her reception rite consists of her reciting the Nicene Creed with the assembly and then adding a short additional profession of faith stating that she believes and professes that all the Church believes, teaches and professes to be revealed by God. She will then celebrate her confirmation and then will receive holy communion for the first time at communion time.

All of our sacraments at St. Isidore and St. Elizabeth of Hungary are celebrated at one of our regular weekend Masses. We do this for several reasons but let me point out two important ones, especially for sacraments of initiation. When a person is received into the Church through baptism for example, the community assumes the responsibility for caring for that person, not just spiritually, but as symbolized by that baptismal garment he or she puts on after the baptism, the community promises to care for their human needs. So the community is promising to feed them when they are hungry, clothe them when they are naked, house them when they are homeless, care for them when they are sick, and even bury and pray for them when they die. It makes sense then that the community should be present to acknowledge that responsibility in person. A second reason is that the celebration of the sacrament serves as a reminder and an inspiration for each of us to remember and renew our own baptismal responsibilities.

In fact we have just come through our 40 day season of Lent that the Church gives us for exactly that reason. In order for the Church of Boston to be ready to receive the almost 600 adults who will be initiated this Easter season, we spent the Lenten season reflecting on our own initiation so that when these new Catholics are initiated we will not be asking them to do anything we are not already doing.

Today's Gospel passage speaks directly to what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, what it means to be a Catholic. There are two stories in today's Gospel that together help us to understand that. Despite its reputation for having a high Christological approach and esoteric theology, John's Gospel never lets us drift into thinking that being a disciple is simply spiritual or intellectual. It constantly reminds us of the deep human aspects of Jesus and of what Jesus calls us to. The first story is a perfect example of that. This story of Jesus appearing after his resurrection to his disciples on the shores of the Galilee has Peter and his friends out in their boat, fishing all night as they have done all their lives. And there is Jesus, on the shore, not giving a sermon or praying, but making breakfast for them. Because as with any human being who has been working all night, Peter and the others are probably famished. And did you ever notice how whenever Jesus satisfies a basic human need, it is always with abundance. From the thirst of the Samaritan woman at the well, to the hunger of the 5000, to today's story of Jesus feeding his hungry disciples, the response is always in abundance. When Jesus tells them to drop their nets in another place, they don't just catch a few anchovies; they catch so 153 fish so large that their nets are almost breaking. God always surprises us like that. Just when we think that there are no fish to catch, we only have to look again where God tells us and we will discover the abundance God has provided for us.

The second story is that very familiar exchange between Jesus and Peter. Most commentators tell us that Jesus asks Peter if he loves him three times so that Peter can redeem his three denials but I don't buy it. Jesus never has people look back at the past. I think he asks the question three times so that Peter, and we, will pay attention to what he is saying. When Jesus asks Peter if he loves him, he is asking him if he is willing to be his disciple, if he is willing to be the rock on which the Church will be built. When Peter says yes, Jesus does not say, go baptize everyone, or start preaching, or even go and pray for anyone. He sticks to the basic human realities: Feed my sheep. As Pope Francis has said over and over again, when someone is hungry or homeless it doesn't make sense to talk about morality or theology; we have to feed them or give them shelter.

So, having used our Lenten retreat to reflect on our own baptisms and having renewed out baptismal promises on Easter, are we ready to continue our commitment to live out our baptismal responsibilities? Are we ready not just to be nourished by the body and blood of Christ but to give up our own bodies for others, to pour out our own blood for the salvation of many? Are we ready to really understand how much Jesus loves us and cares for us? Be careful how we answer this because if we start to realize how much Jesus loves us, we will be compelled to love him back and that will change our lives and the world around us.

So I ask each of you and all of you: Do you love Jesus? (see why Jesus had to ask Peter more than once??).

Do you love Jesus? Then feed his sheep.

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