Freedom from the past strengthens us for mission

Reflecting on our Sunday Readings with Deacon Clement Samuel

Apr 30, 2022

3rd Sunday of Easter (C)
Readings: Acts of the Apostles 5:27-32;
Revelation 5:11-14;
Gospel: John 21:1-19

Simon Peter says to his companions, come let us go fishing. This was no leisure outing. Peter was going back to what he used to do before he first encountered Jesus. So now, even though he had experienced the risen Lord at the Upper room in Jerusalem, but now back in Galilee on home ground, he was still struggling. He had failed the Lord miserably when he denied Him three times and not one meeting with the stupendous and miraculous appearance of Christ was going to heal him.

I suppose the first lesson of today’s readings is that when we are an emotional wreck, healing takes time, especially when we fail at the expectations of others, and even ourselves. Death of loved ones, divorce, broken friendships, sexual or verbal abuse can trigger fits of rage or, like Peter, withdrawing into our ‘comfort zone’, stroking our bruised ego.

Why did Peter end up in this state? Jesus had said, “You cannot follow Me now” (John 13:36). Peter said, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” (Matt. 26:35).

Why did Peter fail?

a. He had too much self confidence
b. He contradicted Jesus
c. He compared self to others: ‘Though all may have their faith shaken, mine will never be shaken’ Mt 26:33.
d. He didn’t know his weaknesses.

Thus, Peter failed Jesus by:

FIRST - Denial. “This man was also with Him” (Luke 22:56). “Woman, I do not know Him” (Luke 22:57).
SECOND - Renounce. “You also are with Him . . . Peter said, ‘Man, I am not’” (Luke 22:58).

THIRD - Curse. “Surely you also are one of them for your speech betrays you. At that Peter began cursing and swore, ‘I do not even know the man!’ Mt 26:73-74.

Peter was broken emotionally. “While he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. Then the Lord turned and looked at Peter . . . (he) remembered the words of the Lord and Peter went out and wept bitterly” (Luke 22:60-62). He felt guilty, ashamed, embarrassed and lost hope.

What does Jesus do for the one needing healing?

1. Jesus doesn’t abandon us. The Lord came to Peter and others who failed at fishing. “They caught nothing” (John 21:2).

a. Is your failure a result of your sin?
b. Does God point out our failures to “touch” our sins? “Did you catch anything?” (John 21:5).

2. Jesus pursues us. God is the Father who yearns for the prodigal. Jesus invites Peter and the other disciples for breakfast with Him.

3. Jesus doesn’t drag up the past. God is in the healing business, not the humiliation business. He’s known by grace not by condemnation.

4. Jesus had “let go” of the fact that Peter had denied Him. Jesus focuses more on the future rather than on our past.

5. Jesus is about relationship. “Peter do you love me?” (John 21:15).

6. Jesus gives us a choice to be healed. “Do you love me more than these?” (v. 15).

a. These friends?
b. This job?.....These nets?
c. Your past life
d. Your bruised pride

7. Jesus restores us to a place of service. Healing and restoration go hand in hand.

a. “Feed my lambs” (v. 15) – initiation level
b. “Tend my sheep” (v. 16) – nurturing level
c. “Feed my sheep” (v. 17) – accountability and responsibility

Our response: Getting and giving forgiveness

1. You should list the names of people you need to forgive.

2. If they continually “bug” you, it means you haven’t dealt with this issue.

3. If you continually bring up the past, it means you haven’t forgiven them.

4. When you don’t want to let them off the hook, it means they have their hooks in you!

5. Since God requires forgiveness, it is something you can do. “Now I forgive those whom you forgive and when I forgive him, I do it because the presence of Christ is with me. I forgive for your benefit, so that Satan does not get an advantage over me” (2 Cor. 2:10-11).

6. We don’t forgive others just for their sake; we forgive for our sake, for Christ’s sake!

7. But you complain, “They will get away with ______________.”
When you forgive, you choose to live with the consequences. If you do not forgive; you live with the consequences anyway.

a. If they have done wrong, God will see to them.
b. If you are right, God can reward better than you.

Pray Audibly

1. “I forgive ________________.”

2. As you forgive others, God forgives you. “Lord, forgive me for __________.”

3. Then pray fervently, “Lord, bless _______.”

From the first reading, we know Jesus had healed Peter. Here in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 5:27-32, 40B-41) we see a changed Peter. He was now fearless and boldly proclaiming the name of Jesus. ‘They left the presence of the Sanhedrin, REJOICING that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonour for the sake of the name’.
Peter experienced fullness of healing because he believed ‘God exalted Jesus at his right hand as leader and saviour to grant Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins.’ (Acts 5:31-32). Perhaps this Sunday we too should pray like the psalmist in our responsorial psalm today, “I will praise you Lord, for you have rescued me” (Ps 30:2) or join the heavenly court in the second reading “To the one who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honour, glory and might forever and ever.” (Rev 5:13). Try praising God for your past and you will experience the miracle of transformation.

(Deacon Clement Samuel is based in the Penang Diocese. He serves at the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer, Tanjung Malim.)

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