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1+2+3+4+5+6+7+8+9+10+11+12+13+14+15+16+17 = 153

By 5 May, 2019January 3rd, 2023No Comments
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Rome, May 5, 2019. Third Sunday of Easter.
Acts of the Apostles 5,27b-32.40b-41; Book of Revelation 5,11-14; Saint John 21,1-19.

  1. Have you ever being fishing all night long… without catching anything? Probably, we all have had some painful experience, some moments loaded with a sense of personal failure in our spiritual or apostolic life when we ask ourselves where have we gone wrong and what can we do now. Maybe this happened in a concrete activity, or after making a sincere effort to help a person, or just trying to modify some aspect of my personal behavior. Pope St John Paul II exhorted:
    There is a temptation which perennially besets every spiritual journey and pastoral work: that of thinking that the results depend on our ability to act and to plan. God of course asks us really to cooperate with his grace, and therefore invites us to invest all our resources of intelligence and energy in serving the cause of the Kingdom. But it is fatal to forget that without Christ we can do nothing (Jn 15:5). It is prayer which roots us in this truth. It constantly reminds us of the primacy of Christ and, in union with him, the primacy of the interior life and of holiness. When this principle is not respected, is it any wonder that pastoral plans come to nothing and leave us with a disheartening sense of frustration? We then share the experience of the disciples in the Gospel story of the miraculous catch of fish: We have toiled all night and caught nothing (NMI 38).
    Sooner or later we learn that God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength (1 Cor 1: 25). And this discovery happens, usually, through a painful experience, like the fishing all night without catching anything. Even in a not precisely evangelical context, Michael Jordan, the iconic basketball player, said: You cannot be a great winner without having to experience struggles and losses. How you use your losses says everything about who you are.
    Perhaps, one of the most painful experiences is to see how many of those who walk by your side abandon the path, captivated by the enticements of this world, suffocated by the difficulties, or victims of fear, as Jesus explains in the parable of the sower. That is what St Paul writes to Timothy: You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes (2Tim 1: 15).
  2. What are the signs, the indicators that the Holy Spirit is really making use of our suffering to purify us and to draw us to Himself?
  • Firstly, these experiences always bring about a sense of awareness of one’s sinfulness.
    If we feel a sense of self-righteousness and spiritual superiority over others, it is probably a sign that we have neither seen God nor known Him, otherwise we would have seen the truth about ourselves: we are sinners like the rest of humanity before Him and yet loved by Him unconditionally.
    St Peter had this reaction when he encountered the Christ’s power and holiness. He thought he knew better than Jesus where to make a catch of fish. It was with reluctance that he obeyed the Lord in putting down the nets, perhaps just to prove Him wrong. When Peter saw the big catch that filled the two boats to sinking point, he fell at the knees of Jesus saying: Leave me, Lord; I am a sinful man. Anyone who encounters the holiness of God and His glory will feel very inadequate about himself.
  • Secondly the awareness of our sinfulness is accompanied by gratitude and a joyful acceptance of God’s forgiveness. The Second Reading is an enthusiastic canticle of gratitude: Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor and glory and blessing.
    Our humble awareness of sin is immediately followed by the awareness and active welcoming of God’s forgiveness. Jesus assured Peter: Do not be afraid! This experience was described by St Paul when he wrote to Timothy: He judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the foremost (1 Tim 1: 12-15).
    If we have received His infinite and undeserving mercy, we will be as grateful as Peter, we will have nothing but gratitude because we will know that who we are today, what we have and what we do is not just the result of our efforts, but essentially God’s gift. This is the feeling the Apostles have in today’s First Reading: As is the holy Spirit that God has given to those who obey him.
  • Finally, a consequence of the overwhelming experience of God’s mercy is the call to serve Him and our immediate response to that call: From now on it is men you will catch. What is most amazing is that God has chosen us in spite of our unworthiness and sinfulness.
    If we are aware of God’s mercy and forgiveness in our lives, we immediately want to be the apostles of mercy and love, the messengers of the Good News to all of humanity. Thus, if we have no desire to spread His love and mercy, it means that we either have forgotten our encounter with Him or we have never been conscious of a radical experience of His love. That is why we rely only on our intellectual knowledge or just on an act of our will, which of course does not guarantee our perseverance. What is it that confirms Peter as an apostle? What sustains us as apostles? One thing only: that we received mercy (1 Tim 1:12-16).
    In a spirit of prayer and commitment we must listen carefully to the words: Behold, I am at the door and knock (Rev 3:20). God is looking at us intently, and He takes any opportunity whatsoever. Think of the fishermen, one moment for God to slip in and before you know it, you are an apostle, a disciple, a prophet, you give your life to your brothers and to Him.
    The famous millionaire John D. Rockefeller was asked by a reporter what amount of money was enough to make him happy, replied with, Just one dollar more. Nothing on Earth is ever going to satisfy us. But if you ask anyone who has made Jesus the Lord of their life, they will tell you that they are blessed beyond anything they could have ever asked or imagined. A life apart from Jesus will always leave you lacking, but a life centered on Jesus is full of abundance.
    A life of service is demanding, but it is really worthwhile: After encountering the divine wisdom and power of Christ, Peter and his coworkers no longer followed their own intellectual reasoning and knowledge; instead, they left everything behind and followed the Lord. They became conscious that their humble efforts will bear fruit exactly when, where and how the Holy Spirit has determined. Without a radical personal encounter with the Lord and renewal of such encounter, our faith will be weak. In fact, some of us fail to realize that this encounter not temporary, but permanent. This explains why there is a lack of enthusiasm, conviction and joy to proclaim the Good News.
    In the words of Pope Francis:
    The greatest miracle Jesus wrought for Simon and the other disappointed and tired fishermen was not so much to fill the net with fish but to help them not to fall victims of disappointment and discouragement in face of failures. He opened them to become heralds and witnesses of His word and of the Kingdom of God. And the disciples’ answer was quick and total: ‘And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him (Feb 10, 2019).
  1. Feed my lambs. Tend my sheep. Follow me.
    This command sounds great and idealistic around a warm fire on the beach, but it becomes a lot more challenging when you are actually dealing with the sheep. Being in relationship with Jesus means we must love his sheep, even when the sheep are not particularly loveable. How do you love the sheep who gets on your nerves, the sheep who is so needy, the sheep who broke their promise to you? Remember that Jesus also called them by name. They are not your sheep; they are Jesus’ sheep. Therefore, all kind of efforts should be carried out to spread tenderness and sensitivity first and especially to those closest to us:
    I would encourage you to pray in such a way that it all comes down to a feeling of home. I have told you that you should be truly brothers and sisters, treating each other with marvelous respect and care. You should awaken in your religious life, each day, in your hearts, this feeling of home, this family affection, this intimate tenderness.
    Also impart this grace to one another in such a way that, speaking to each other, in whatever way it be –devout, religious or mystical–, must not be with harshness, with stiff feeling, but with that feeling that responds to a model reality that is Heaven itself, at whose head is the Most Holy Trinity
    (Our Father Founder. En el Corazón del Padre).
    Following Jesus pushes us to do what we may not especially want to do Peter’s love will lead to the cross. When you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, is a reference to stretching one’s arms on the patibulum, the horizontal bar of a Roman cross.
    Jesus meets the fishermen when they need help and he helps them in an unexpected way. These fishermen would have been happy with a basket of fish to sell in the market, but now their nets are breaking and they’re working harder than ever just to remain afloat. Like the fishermen, we come asking for a little help and sometimes get overwhelmed by the result: God himself asks us for help through the suffering and the dreams of our neighbors!
    God’s love is bigger than we imagined. Indeed, Jesus comes to us when we need help, and through experiences with his Word, the Eucharist, some people we find in our path…and especially with His calling after some unfruitful night. This help may not provide the result we are looking for; we need to be prepared for surprises along the way. Yes, he allows the tiniest of things, seemingly insignificant, to become greater than anything we could have ever imagined.
    St Peter cooperated with the grace of God by putting down the nets. When we cooperate with His grace like the apostles, He will show forth His glory and power in our weakness.
    How can we cooperate with His grace and not allow the grace of God given to us to be received in vain?
    First, simply by not casting the nets on the left side of the boat. That is, not taking initiatives that have nothing to do with the Kingdom of Heaven. And second, being aware that we are always feeding some flock; we necessarily have to choose: either feeding His lambs or feeding our own crazy goats; to nurture the spiritual health of our fellow human beings or to nourish our instincts. The key is to acknowledge that we cannot avoid this challenging shepherding dilemma.