3 Easter C ’13 • Acts 5:27-32, 40b-41 • Revelation 5:11-14 • John 21:1-19 •
Scripture Readings: Third Sunday of Easter
PDF Print: Weekly Homily 04.14.2013
Christ is risen! (Truly, he is risen!) In the recent trial of a Grizzly football player accused of rape he was found innocent. The trial occurred because at the very least that young man engaged in seriously mistaken behavior. That does not mean he is a bad person. Singular choices in a human life are less significant than the person’s interior openness to truth, to love and to God.
We see that in the gospel today. As we try to open this text keep in mind the night when Jesus was on trial. Peter denied his friendship with Jesus three times. We are not told what internal torment Peter and the others experienced when they fled the scene.
According to the gospel of John, they returned to Galilee. Peters says, “I am going fishing,” and his seven companions say, “we will come with you. So they went.” They resumed their pre-Jesus occupation, their former way of life. “But that night they caught nothing.” “Night” – night means the absence of light. Jesus is the light! Without the Risen One their life is empty; their efforts unsuccessful.
“When it was already dawn Jesus was standing on the shore.” “Dawn” means light. “The disciples did not recognize him.” Even so they follow his advice and their net is full. Finally after “Jesus took the bread and gave it to them” they recognize him; recognize that Christ is risen! (Truly, he is risen!)
That all is prelude to what happens next. We are told that the Risen One engages Peter in an intensely personal dialogue about “love.”
Recently I was part of a panel discussion at St. Patrick Hospital. We panelists, representing various faith traditions, were to discuss the question, “how can we engage in productive conversations, even when we disagree?” I tried to apply the teaching of Jesus to the question, concluding that our primary task in discussing some “hot-topic” with someone is not to change his or her opinion but simply to “love” that other person.
One of the panelists seemed to get very upset over my use of that four-letter word. We did not have opportunity to discuss what the word “love” means. I surely did not mean anything like in — “I love Moose Drool,” or “I love to ski.”
The Greek language in which John’s gospel was written clarifies the meaning of our word “love” with the use of three words. “Eros” means the love of sexual attraction. “Philia” means the love of mutual friendship. “Agape” is unconditional love that seeks the highest good of another.
You have heard this from me before. In the middle of John’s gospel Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you ‘agape’ one another, even as I have ‘agaped’ you.” Jesus asks Simon Peter twice, “do you “agape” me,” that is, do you “love me unconditionally? Twice Peter answers, “Lord, you know I ‘filia’ you”, “love you as a friend.” The third time Jesus changes the question and accepts Peter with his limitations – “Simon Peter do you ‘filia’ me?”
There are many places you can go to find people just like yourself, who live for sports or music or gardening or politics. But “agape” is hard to find. Our fractured world desperately needs people of radical, faithful, unconditional love. We who name ourselves “church” are called to be that sort of community.
Today the Risen One stands among us. Listen to him! “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another.” He is calling us to love him through others with “agape” – “unconditional love.” That is an enormous challenge. We all are at various stages of our growth to become more like Christ, more fully human. Singular choices in a human life are less significant than your interior openness to truth, to love and to God. Persist in living our your conviction that Christ is risen! (Truly, he is risen!)