Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Risen Christ's "Rescue Operation" – Part One

The finale of Saint John's Gospel – Chapters 20 and 21 – records one of the most powerfully moving incidents between Our Risen Lord Jesus and His Apostles.

After His Resurrection, Christ showed Himself to His friends, the eleven Apostles, several times, which were recorded in the New Testament. Our Risen Lord Jesus gave them signs that He was very much alive -- alive in a new way!  He gave other signs as well, in the presence of His disciples. As Saint John says, “There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written.” [John 21:25]

One of the signs the Risen Lord Jesus gave by sea-shore?  Saint Peter's net, full of fish. That miraculous catch of fish was actually part of a larger sign: the sign of the Risen Christ's Rescue Operation.  

Poor Saint Peter! How lucky for him that he proved to be such a successful fisher of MEN! He seems to have been a desperately poor fisher of FISH!  Every time we meet Saint Peter in the Gospel, stiff and weary from spending long hours during the night in his fishing boat, we're told that he had caught nothing! As far as Sacred Scripture reveals, there is not one record of Saint Peter making a catch without Our Lord Jesus performing a miracle for him.  No wonder Saint John realized at once WHO it was on the shore, when Saint Peter's net filled to the breaking point.  That miraculous catch signaled the RE-calling of Peter: it was his rescue and his re-recruitment as an apostle.

Our Lord Jesus grew up in Galilee. When He recruited His disciples, He chose Galileans. Many of these young men were called right off their fishing boats on the Sea of Galilee (also known as the Sea Of Tiberius).  During their three years of apprenticeship with Our Lord Jesus, they adjusted gradually to an entirely different way of life from their former lives as fishermen.  They learned to preach, and to manage huge crowds.  Our Lord Jesus was constantly training them.  Even when they finally ended up in the large and overwhelming city of Jerusalem, facing the social and political treachery of those in power, the Apostles always had Our Lord Jesus with them, teaching them about the facts of life as His Apostles. They grew more and more confident and stronger in faith.

But when Our Lord Jesus was arrested, they suddenly found themselves frightened and weak.  Fear of the Jerusalem mob that wanted crucifixion caused Peter to say, "I swear, I don't know this man, Jesus!" 
That mob in Jerusalem finally did bring Our Lord Jesus to His superbly painful death. The apostles all ran away. Judas Iscariot took his own life.

But in the Gospel passages we're reflecting upon – John 20 and 21 -- all of that tragedy seems to be far behind Peter and the other ten surviving Apostles.  They were all back on their favorite lake, doing what they did three years earlier -- fishing those blue waters. It was almost as if they'd never left. Almost... but not quite.  The first phase of Christianity had been accomplished; now, Phase Two would begin. PHASE TWO IS A RESCUE OPERATION, CONDUCTED BY THE RISEN LORD.

Phase Two begins on that warm spring morning on the Sea of Galilee, with the Risen Lord Jesus calling the Apostles from their fishing boats for the SECOND time.   This time, He asks them to make their commitments as leaders of His newly founded Church.  Their BAPTISMS had been completed in their three years of discipleship. Now, their CONFIRMATION DAY is only a few weeks away, on Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit will flood them with courage and faith and wisdom.  Having come ashore to eat the meal the Risen Lord Jesus had provided for them, they must now decide, once and for all, between their fishing boats and the mission Our Lord Jesus was calling them to.

Obviously, we KNOW how they decided.   WE are all here today because they pledged lifelong loyalty to Our Lord Jesus. 
Our Lord Jesus offered Peter A SECOND CHANCE.  Our Lord Jesus loved Peter enough to rescue Peter -- AND US -- from ourselves, our failures, and our mistakes.
Once the apostles made land and were fed by Our Lord Jesus, He used the occasion of that meal to offer Peter the chance to rescue himself from his triple denial -- through a triple profession of faith.
Christ's question is, "DO YOU LOVE ME?" Peter's profession of faith is an emotional, almost frustrated, "Lord, You KNOW that I love You!"  Our Lord Jesus responds, "IF YOU LOVE ME, FEED MY SHEEP. FOLLOW ME."
Our Lord Jesus' question provoked Peter's profession of faith; that profession of faith RESCUED Peter, TRANSFORMED Peter, and INCLUDED Peter in Christ's rescue operation.

The Risen Christ offers US the same opportunity He offered Peter: to remember and renew our commitment to Christ, and to be rescued from whatever pit of selfishness, laziness, denial or failure we may be in or may be headed toward.
Christ asks us, "Do YOU love Me? Will YOU follow Me?  Do you BELIEVE IN ME?  If so, will you PUT YOUR FAITH INTO ACTION?"   Having accepted God's rescue of us through Christ's saving act upon the Cross, WE are called to become personally, INEXTRICABLY INVOLVED IN Christ's rescue operation.  

Do we really believe that?  Do we really love Our Lord Jesus,  and love one another as Our Lord Jesus loves? 
If we do, then we accept the challenge to ACT on that faith, and do what Our Lord Jesus and Peter did:
BE RESCUERS: FEED, AND CARE, AND LOVE AND FORGIVE PEOPLE... BY DRAWING THEM INTO THE SAFETY NETS OF CHRIST'S RISEN LIFE!

We renewed our Baptismal Promises on Easter. But now we are offered another opportunity to remember and renew that commitment, and to rescue ourselves from the selfishness or laziness that sometimes causes us to discontinue our promise to rescue others -- to rescue others from loneliness, sadness, ignorance, hunger, mourning, violence and whatever else God's people need to be rescued from.

The Risen Lord Jesus chose the occasion of a lakeside meal to give Saint Peter the opportunity to re-examine his commitment and profess his faith once again.
WE who gather together at Holy Mass, to be with and to receive Christ present in the Holy Eucharist, are constantly required to examine OUR faith commitment, and to ACT ON OUR FAITH.
Our Lord Jesus prepared a meal for His friends. And, then He asked, "Simon, son of John, do you love Me?"  "Yes, Lord, You know that I love You." "Then, tend My sheep; feed My lambs.  Follow ME!"

To Be Continued...

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Men of The Catholic Jedi Academy are also Men Of Saint Joseph!

Men of The Catholic Jedi Academy are also Men Of Saint Joseph!
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