Easter 03, Year C-2010

From Vincentian Encyclopedia
With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him (Lk. 24:31)

Three of the five petitions in the Evening Prayer intercessions for Tuesday of the Second Week of Easter in the Liturgy of Hours relate to today’s gospel reading. These three petitions are: “Chief shepherd, after your resurrection you made Peter shepherd of your flock when he professed his love for you, increase from day to day the love and devotion of …, our Pope”; “You showed your disciples how to make a great catch of fish, send others to continue their work as fishers of men”; “At the lakeside you prepared bread and fish for your disciples, grant that we may never allow others to die of hunger.”

These petitions are quite timely, I believe, given that Benedict XVI is being criticized severely and unrelentingly, it seems, by the media for the way he supposedly handled or did not handle the matter of clergy abuse of children. The Pope can use our prayers as critics question, in effect, his love and devotion as well as his leadership as shepherd. They can use our prayers, too, those who are charged with the responsibility of finding others to continue the work of catching human beings: their task is certainly not any easier at a time when the credibility of those who work as fishers of human beings is very seriously being put into question. And those in need of bread and fish need to be prayed for as well, since more of them would die of hunger, I am afraid, the fewer the number of believers, whether fishers or fished, who are imbued with love and devotion.

Indeed, prayer is of primary importance. After all, as today’s gospel reading indicates, it is only with Jesus’ intervention that the professional fishermen among the apostles and disciples were able to haul in a plentiful catch. “Never in the Gospels,” reads a commentary “do the disciples catch a fish without Jesus’ help” (see the InterVarsity Press commentary at [1]). Prayer is an acknowledgement that without Jesus, we can do nothing (Jn. 15:5). Prayer is a proclamation that “unless the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build” (Ps. 127:1). Prayer is an acceptance of our inadequacy, an admission of our weakness, folly, powerlessness, mortality, corruptibility, poverty, brokenness, which God makes use of in order to reveal his strength, wisdom, power, immortality, holiness, wealth, wholeness. Praying, we confess our sins and own up to our guilt, and God, who exalted Jesus at his right hand grants us repentance and forgiveness of sins. Thus we do exactly the opposite of what was done by the high priest and the party of the Sadducees who refused to accept any blame for Jesus’ death and, therefore, refused likewise to enter the door to repentance and forgiveness.

And prayerful in this sense, we come to worship the Lion of the tribe of Judah in the Lamb that was slaughtered. Prayerful, we recognize the triumphant and mighty King in none other than the Crucified One, who triumphed and conquered, not by the sword but by his death (see the InterVarsity Press commentary at [2]). The one who asks, “Children, haven’t you any fish?” and later, “Bring some of the fish you just caught,” reveals himself to the prayerful—to those who acknowledge themselves catching or accomplishing nothing despite their best effort in doing what they know they do best—to be same as the one who comes over and takes the bread and gives it to them and does the same with the fish.

With this revelation, those who pray can join St. Theodore the Studite in exclaiming (see the non-biblical reading in the Office of Readings for Friday of the Second Week of Easter in the Liturgy of the Hours): “What an astonishing transformation! That death should become life, that decay should become immortality, that shame should become glory!” And the prayerful—while admitting, of course, that the transgressions of others must not at all serve as a justification for their own transgressions and that much of human suffering is man’s own making (1 Pt. 2:20)—can moreover find consolation during these testing and critical times in these words of Timothy Radcliffe, O.P. [3]:

From the beginning and throughout history, Peter has often been a wobbly rock,
a source of scandal, corrupt, and yet this is the one—and his successors—whose
task is to hold us together so that we may witness to Christ’s defeat on Easter
Day of sin’s power to divide. And so the Church is stuck with me whatever happens.
We may be embarrassed to admit that we are Catholics, but Jesus kept shameful
company from the beginning.

When we, the Church, recognize ourselves as a shameful company, powerless, weak, poor, then we are revealed as glorious, powerful, strong, rich.