A living memorial for the Year of Mercy in every diocese

Today’s Gospel reading contains a wonderful resurrection scene at the conclusion of the Gospel of John.

Apr 08, 2016

By Anil Netto
Today’s Gospel reading contains a wonderful resurrection scene at the conclusion of the Gospel of John. The disciples had returned to fishing. Why were they back in the boat? Had they given up on Jesus? Or were they merely making a living for their families until they heard from the Lord? We really don’t know. But like the first time Jesus called out to them, actually in the Synoptics, Matthew Mark and Luke, they were not very successful until the Lord told them to cast their nets off to the right side of the boat. They didn’t recognize the Lord until they saw the results of listening to Him. They caught 153 large fish. Why 153? Remember in the Synoptics, Jesus said, “I will make you fishers of men.” Well, some writers have posited that 153 was the number of nations known to exist. “It is the Lord,” John said to Peter. Peter then tucked in his clothes and jumped into the water to be with Jesus. This is backward. People usually get rid of their clothing when they jump into the water. Peter secured his. Why? He was going before the Holy One. He was swimming to the Presence. Out of respect, he needed to be dressed appropriately. The vast majority of us do the same thing when we come to Church on the weekends. We dress properly out of respect for the Presence we are coming before. When Peter and the other disciples in the boat came upon Jesus, they found Him sitting at a fire. He offered them breakfast. He ate with them. Jesus was not a ghost. Ghosts do not eat. There is no place for the food to go. Jesus had a resurrected body. It was holy, but a real human body. He told them to join Him in the meal. Then we come to that wonderful dialogue between Jesus and Peter demanding the triple affirmation from Peter as a negation of his triple denial on Good Friday. “Do you love me, Simon Peter?” “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” “Then feed my sheep.” Jesus was not about to let Peter wallow in his own guilt and self-pity. Peter had done a terrible thing. He had denied the Lord. It is clear that Peter sought the Lord’s forgiveness. The gospels say that he wept bitterly after he heard the cock crow. In the Gospel of Luke, 22:61, after the third denial Jesus turned and looked at Peter. Their eyes met. I can only imagine that Jesus would have had forgiveness in His eyes. Now, after the Resurrection, there were more important things to consider: Peter, would remain the head of the apostles. He would be the point man in the establishment of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. Jesus did not ask Peter to do anything all that extraordinary to prove his love. He just asked him to feed the Lord’s sheep. The rest of Peter’s life would be spent feeding the Lord’s sheep. There is a section missing in the first reading for this Sunday. Peter and John were on trial for proclaiming Christ, in trial before the same people that Peter cowered from a few weeks earlier on that horrible Friday that was also very good. In a complete reversal from the coward who lied on Good Friday, Peter tells the Sanhedrin that he will listen to the Lord rather than them. Chris Tomlin would express their feelings and all of our feelings when he wrote: How can I keep from singing Your praise How can I ever say enough How amazing is Your love How can I keep from shouting Your name I know I am loved by the King And it makes my heart want to sing © CCLI License #2368115 The missing sections was that Peter and John were flogged. They left the Sanhedrin rejoicing that they had suffered dishonour for the sake of the name of Jesus. We know that Peter would eventually go to Rome and, as the Roman historian Tertullian states, endure a passion like his Lord’s. The Christian theologian, Origen, as well as others wrote that Peter was crucified, head downward. This happened in the Ager Vaticanus, the area on the west bank of the Tiber where Nero had constructed an arena. Christians would eventually build a Church over the burial spot, and then a basilica, the Basilica of St Peter. The truth of Jesus would continue to nourish the people from Peter and those who stood in his place, the popes. George Weigel mentions in Letters to Young Catholics that the large obelisk in the center of the Piazza San Pietro was brought to Rome from Egypt by the Emperor Nero and was placed in the arena where Peter was martyred. It was most likely one of the last things that Peter saw before he died. This obelisk is directly in a new Pope’s line of vision when he looks out at the crowds in the Piazza San Pietro immediately after his election. Pope Francis could not help but see it with those 200,000 people milling around it. Like the first Peter, Pope Francis must feed the Lord’s sheep no matter what personal cost this might entail. And so must we. Others are depending on us. A whole world is looking to us. We have a mission to complete with our lives. We are members of the Body of Christ. We need to fulfill our function within the Body for the good of the world. We must proclaim Jesus Christ with our lives. Jesus was raised from the dead so we can share in His life, and so we can give this life to others. “Show your love for me, Simon Peter, by feeding my sheep,” the Lord said. “Show your love for me, faithful Christians, by feeding my sheep,” the Lord says to us. Jesus has much work for us to do. — By Fr Joseph A. Pellegrino Third Sunday of Easter: Feed My Sheep 3rd Sunday of Easter (Year C) Readings: Acts of the Apostles 5:27b-32; Revelation 5:11-14 Gospel: John 21:1-19 Looking around us, we see a world that is prosperous for a minority but that has left many drifting by the way-side.

Those who have milked this lopsided economic system live it up with their jet-setting, partying and lavish life-styles in palatial mansions while the multitude slog with drudgery from their work or are exploited in low-paying jobs.

Other souls languish in prisons and detention camps or have to contend with life in overcrowded classrooms and hospital wards, where beds may be crammed even along pathways and sometimes corridors.

Still others remain unemployed or slip through social security nets into the streets or into the depths of psychological despair and loneliness.

On the eve of Mercy Sunday, the Bishop of Rome spoke in St Peter’s Square about how badly tenderness and mercy are needed in our world.

In Scripture, mercy is above all the closeness of God to his people, expressed mainly through his help and protection, says Francis. He described this closeness as being similar to that of a parent and reminiscent of the words of the prophet Hosea: “I led them with cords of compassion, with the bands of love, and I became to them as one who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent down to them and fed them” (11:4).

This image is extremely evocative, says Francis: “God picks each one of us up and holds us to his cheek. How much tenderness and love is expressed here! Tenderness: a word almost forgotten and one which the world today needs, all of us need.

“How many expressions there are, therefore, of God’s mercy! This mercy comes to us as closeness and tenderness, and because of this, comes also as compassion and solidarity, as consolation and forgiveness.” The more we receive, the more we are called to share it with others, Francis reminds us; it cannot be kept hidden or kept only for ourselves. “It is something which burns within our hearts, driving us to love, thus recognising the face of Jesus Christ, above all in those who are most distant, weak, alone, confused and marginalised.” At the end of his sermon, Francis shared an idea which cropped up during a conversation with the directors of a charitable agency. “How beautiful it would be to have as a reminder, a ‘memorial’ as it were, in every diocese during this Year of Mercy, an institutional expression of mercy: a hospital, a home for the elderly, for abandoned children, a school where none exists, a home for the recovery of addicts…

There are so many things that could be done… “It would be very good for each diocese to consider: what can we leave as a living memory, as a work of living mercy, as a wound of the living Jesus for this Year of Mercy? Let us reflect on this and speak to the Bishops about it.” This idea is very much in keeping with Francis’ vision of the Church as “a field hospital after battle” to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful.

The Church needs to be near the people and has to work from the ground up to heal wounds and tend to their most basic needs, he keeps telling us. Now this “living memory” idea for the Year of Mercy does not have to entail expensive building projects. In each diocese, no doubt, there would possibly exist unused or underutilised buildings or property owned by the church that could be converted to an “institutional expression of mercy.”

The challenge, as always, is not the hardware of buildings but the software — finding the right people with the aptitude and disposition to run such “field hospitals.”

Funding should not be a problem. If we truly believe this is God’s work, what God wills, then the funding will materialise, especially if people can see it is for a good cause. Just like the five loaves and two fish that fed a multitude. Some dioceses may already have such centres as part of their human development work. But what the Bishop of Rome seems to be suggesting is a (new?) living memorial to the Year of Mercy in every diocese to reach out to “the most distant, weak, alone, confused and marginalised” — which, by definition, does not mean it should cater only to Catholics or those who can afford to pay for such services.

This would be a fitting and permanent reminder of the Year of Mercy. This piece is dedicated to the late Br Vincent Corkery, fsc, a man of remarkable intellectual and spiritual depth who devoted his life to the education of the last, the least and the lost at St Michael’s in Ipoh and who touched many with his humble words of encouragement and profound wisdom.

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