Jesus’ Feeding and Forming of his Fishers of Men, Easter Friday, April 1, 2016

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Sacred Heart Convent of the Sisters of Life, New York, NY
Friday of Easter Week
April 1, 2016
Acts 4:1-12, Ps 118, Jn 21:1-14

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily preceded by the Easter Sequence, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances all had a purpose: to strengthen the disciples and apostles in the reality of the Resurrection so as to help them to become living signs of the Resurrection — of the mercy, joy and life associated with it — to all the nations. But that transformation was a radical one and took time. As we’ve been seeing all week, with Mary Magdalene, the disciples in Emmaus, and the apostles in the Upper Room, the Risen Jesus meets with initial incredulity, then shows him that his resurrection is real, teaches them how it was the fulfillment of all he and the prophets had foretold, sees them respond with faith, and gives them a mission to bring news of his resurrection and all that he had told them to others. Today Jesus doesn’t meet with initial incredulity but lack of recognition and then leads Peter and the other six disciples on a journey of growth in faith in order to strengthen them for the mission of witnessing to Christ before others.
  • Jesus had told Mary Magdalene to ask his apostles to meet him in Galilee, as we just sang in the Easter Sequence. Finally Peter and the others were in Galilee and Peter decided to spend the night catching upcoming meals. The other apostles decided to join him. But just as happened the first time he had met Jesus three years earlier, he toiled all night but caught nothing. In the morning, amidst what was probably normal haze and fog, an unfamiliar voice came from the shore telling them to cast their net on the other side of the boat. Jesus’ voice, just like his other sensible appearances, had mysteriously changed after the resurrection. The fishermen obliged and they caught so many fish that their nets were at the breaking point. That’s when St. John recognized by faith that it had to be the Lord who had called out to them. St. Peter, so excited it was the Lord, hopped into the water and swam 100 yards to be with the Lord as soon as possible — just like he exuberantly had hopped overboard during a storm to meet Jesus who had been walking toward them on the water.
  • When the apostles reached the shore, Jesus had breakfast going with fish and bread on a fire and asked for them to bring some of the fish they had caught. Jesus was teaching them that after his resurrection, he was with them in their work, with them as he provided for their meals, and with them in basically all good aspects of their life. But he was particularly showing them that he would be with them in their continuance of his work as fishers of men. St. John tells us that they caught 153 fish. In addition to being the actual number of fish they caught, 153 had symbolic significance: it was both the number of known nations in the world at that time and what the ancients believed was the number of species of fish. For that reason, the early saints of the Church interpreted it as Jesus’ showing that he was sending them out as fishers of men to all 153 nations, to catch all “153” types of men, women, boys and girl (fish).
  • But he also had a deeper mission in mind for Peter. Unfortunately the Church separates this reading from the second half of the scene by six weeks. We’ll hear it on the third to last day of Easter, on Friday of the Seventh Week, May 13. Jesus, right after feeding everyone, asks Peter three times whether he loves him, to help Peter repent of the three denials on Holy Thursday. Jesus first asks Peter if he loves him with a total self-sacrificial love (agape), more than “all the rest,” more than everything else. Peter replies, “Lord you know that I love you,” but the word he uses for love is philia, signifying love as a friend. Peter, who had said that he would die for the Lord but denied him three times before the cock crowed, evidently didn’t feel comfortable saying that he loved him in that self-sacrificial way lest he betray him again. Jesus asked him a second time whether Peter loved him with agape. And Peter replied that he loved him with philia. So Jesus asked him a third time, but this time changed the verb: Simon, son of John, do you love me as a friend? That’s when Peter was upset and said, “Lord, you know that I love you as a friend.” But Jesus wouldn’t leave him there. He then told Peter, “Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted;  but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go,” signifying, St. John tells us, what type of death he would undergo when his arms would be stretched in crucifixion. Even though Peter was too ashamed after his falls to say it, Jesus prophesied that he actually had the love that would lead him courageously to give his life for Jesus.
  • We see that type of love in the first reading. After curing a crippled man and calling the crowds to conversion as a result, Peter and John were arrested by the same people who had conspired to have Jesus murdered just a few weeks before, the chief priests, scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees and Sanhedrin members. They were among the most learned people in Israel, and Peter a simple fisherman with a strong Galilean accent. But regardless, he spoke out forcefully by the gift of courage of the Holy Spirit and called everyone to conversion: “Leaders of the people and elders,” he said, “If we are being examined today about a good deed done to a cripple, namely, by what means he was saved, then all of you and all the people of Israel should know that it was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead; in his name this man stands before you healed. … There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.” The name of Moses won’t save. The name of the prophets won’t save. Even the Temple won’t save. Peter was saying that only by the name of Jesus, whom they crucified but God raised from the dead and was therefore living, can people be saved. Those were revolutionary words, even “blasphemous” in the understanding of his audience. But he said them any way. The reason is because after Jesus’ resurrection, they recognized there was nothing to fear. If people can brutally execute someone like they did Jesus and God could still raise him from the dead on the third day, then there was no reason for any of them to be intimidated! That just as Jesus was the stone rejected by the builders who became the cornerstone, so when we suffer rejection for the Gospel, the witness we make will nevertheless form us to become a living stone built on Christ the cornerstone. That’s the power of the resurrection, that refuse becomes foundational, that even sins become happy!
  • Today Jesus meets us at this early hour not to feed us with baked fish and bread but with his own Body and Blood. He asks us to bring to Mass with us the “fish” we have caught, the brothers and sisters we have sought to introduce to the Lord. Even if we’ve toiled all night and caught nothing or very little, even if we feel somewhat rejected, Jesus wants to firm us up to send us out anew to cast out net to the other side, to the right side, to the side he indicates. And he wants to send us out to proclaim his Gospel with the same courage as we see in St. Peter. May we, nourished by the most incredible Breakfast of all, be strengthen to do just that today!

The readings for this Mass were: 

Reading 1
ACTS 4:1-12

After the crippled man had been cured,
while Peter and John were still speaking to the people,
the priests, the captain of the temple guard,
and the Sadducees confronted them,
disturbed that they were teaching the people
and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.
They laid hands on Peter and John
and put them in custody until the next day,
since it was already evening.
But many of those who heard the word came to believe
and the number of men grew to about five thousand.
On the next day, their leaders, elders, and scribes
were assembled in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest,
Caiaphas, John, Alexander,
and all who were of the high-priestly class.
They brought them into their presence and questioned them,
“By what power or by what name have you done this?”
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, answered them,
“Leaders of the people and elders:
If we are being examined today
about a good deed done to a cripple,
namely, by what means he was saved,
then all of you and all the people of Israel should know
that it was in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean
whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead;
in his name this man stands before you healed.
He is the stone rejected by you, the builders,
which has become the cornerstone.
There is no salvation through anyone else,
nor is there any other name under heaven
given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”

Responsorial Psalm
PS 118:1-2 AND 4, 22-24, 25-27A

R. (22) The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his mercy endures forever.
Let the house of Israel say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
Let those who fear the LORD say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
R. The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.
or:
R. Alleluia.
The stone which the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
By the LORD has this been done;
it is wonderful in our eyes.
This is the day the LORD has made;
let us be glad and rejoice in it.
R. The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.
or:
R. Alleluia.
O LORD, grant salvation!
O LORD, grant prosperity!
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD;
we bless you from the house of the LORD.
The LORD is God, and he has given us light.
R. The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Gospel
JN 21:1-14

Jesus revealed himself again to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias.
He revealed himself in this way.
Together were Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus,
Nathanael from Cana in Galilee,
Zebedee’s sons, and two others of his disciples.
Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.”
They said to him, “We also will come with you.”
So they went out and got into the boat,
but that night they caught nothing.
When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore;
but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
Jesus said to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?”
They answered him, “No.”
So he said to them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat
and you will find something.”
So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in
because of the number of fish.
So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.”
When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord,
he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad,
and jumped into the sea.
The other disciples came in the boat,
for they were not far from shore, only about a hundred yards,
dragging the net with the fish.
When they climbed out on shore,
they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread.
Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you just caught.”
So Simon Peter went over and dragged the net ashore
full of one hundred fifty-three large fish.
Even though there were so many, the net was not torn.
Jesus said to them, “Come, have breakfast.”
And none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?”
because they realized it was the Lord.
Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them,
and in like manner the fish.
This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to his disciples
after being raised from the dead.
dine