One day the great Italian Renaissance artist Michelangelo happened to overhear a group of people admiring his Pieta, a statue of Christ on His mother's knees after His death on the cross. One man attributed the work to another sculptor, much to Michelangelo’s shock, who took particular pride in the Pieta. So he returned to the sculpture after dark that evening and carved his name on it so that no similar mistake would ever occur in the future.
This morning we hear in the Gospel of John how the disciples did not immediately recognize Jesus even though this was his third appearance after the resurrection. How were they not able to recognize Jesus? They were with him for three years? During those three years they watched and learned from their great master but this day they didn’t know that this was the messiah. We see that concern of Jesus for others in four ways in this Gospel that you would have thought the disciples would recognize him immediately.
First, seeing the futile efforts of his hardworking disciples, Jesus tells them where to cast their nets. When they follow his instruction, their fishing expedition is spectacularly successful. This suggests the nature of ministry in the Church: ministry will be successful if the ministers follow the commands of Jesus. Second, knowing that after working all night the disciples would be hungry, Jesus has breakfast prepared for them. The simple act of preparing a meal expresses his concern for them. The meal of bread and fish recalls the story of the feeding of the 5,000 with five barley loaves and two fish (John 6:8). Jesus, who knows humanity’s hunger, feeds his disciples as he fed the crowd. Third, he rehabilitates Peter. The set of three questions Jesus poses to Peter (“Do you love me?”) recalls Peter’s threefold denial of Jesus in the high priest’s courtyard. In this poignant encounter between friends whose relationship has been strained, Jesus does not scold, rebuke, or chastise Peter: he does not demand an apology or an explanation. Rather, he offers an opportunity for Peter himself to undo his denial and to affirm his love. Finally, Jesus shows his love and care for succeeding generations of disciples (us!) in providing for their care. He commissions Peter to take up the Lord’s own work as one who tends the sheep. Peter, fed by Jesus on the shore, is told to “feed my sheep.”
My brothers and sisters are we like the disciples this morning and do not recognize Jesus? Do we recognize Jesus in our brothers and sisters? A better question to ask this morning would be, do people recognize us as the followers of Christ? Let us look into the four areas that I just covered and ask ourselves if we take an active role in those areas.
Do we as Christ minister to the church? Do we take an active role here in our parish? Could there be a possibility that the Lord is calling you to be a extraordinary minister of communion? a lector? a religious education instructor? an usher? or just simply a volunteer eager to help with assisting in any events that are occurring in the parish?
Do we feed others as Christ fed his disciples who were hungry? Do we become concern with those that are needy in our community and trust me my brothers and sisters there is a great need in this community. I see it especially when I help out in the food pantry and how many of our brothers and sisters are in great need and don’t know what to do anymore. Yes, it is wonderful that many of you help out with brown bag Sunday but is there any more that you can do or if you don’t donate to brown bag Sunday could you be able to begin?
Do you love me? That is the question that is put to Peter. If Christ asked us this morning as he asked Peter, what would our response be? I’m assuming of course the answer from our lips would be “yes” but have our actions proven that? Have we taken Christ seriously in our lives? Have we spent the time in prayer? Have we shown that love of Christ to others especially those times that are challenging to show that love?
Jesus commands Peter to “feed his sheep?” My brothers and sisters are we “feeding the sheep?” Now many people believe that only the ordained clergy are responsible in the tending the flock which the ordained have a certain obligation to tend and serve the flock because of their ordination but because of your baptism as Vatican II called for; you should also take a responsibility in attending to the flock. As the baptized community we should always be evangelizing and praying for the flock especially the ones that have fallen astray.
I mentioned this in one of my previous homilies but I think it’s worth repeating when Mother Theresa was asked once, "What's the biggest problem in the world today?" Without hesitating she replied, "The biggest problem in the world today is that we draw the circle of our family too small. We need to draw it larger every day."
That’s what we have to do we have to share that concern for others not just to a limited number of people or to just the people we like but to all who need a “Jesus” in their lives as we saw in the Gospel this morning as Jesus shows concern for his disciples. Of course, we cannot do this until we recognize the Lord so that “they will know that we are Christians by our love.”
Living Liturgy, p 115