Br. Robert James Magliula, OHC
Easter 3 C - Sunday, April 10, 2016
Acts 9:1-6, (7-20)
|The miraculous fishing - Duccio di Buoninsegna 1308-1311|
Museo dell'Opera del Duomo, Florence, Italy
It’s in that moment of abundance that the beloved disciple recognizes Jesus. Peter, still naked from fishing, puts on his clothes and swims ashore. An impetuous and dramatic gesture which, unfortunately, leaves the others to struggle with the enormous catch. When they finally arrive on shore, they find a fire burning with fish and bread baking. Jesus then invites them to add some of their catch to the meal. The story concludes with a shared meal and a commission.
The roller-coaster ride of the disciples through the last week of Jesus’ life was filled with emotional highs and lows, culminating in the news of the empty tomb and the appearances that had to be seen to be believed. Experiences of emotional overload overwhelm the human spirit. At such times we often seek comfort, almost mindlessly, in familiar activities. We can fill in the blanks for ourselves. We all know those activities and things that we are drawn to for comfort. Peter’s announcement about going fishing can sound quaint and quirky, but the return to his former life and trade is not so surprising.
What is surprising is the point made that there is no escape. Wherever they go, the Risen Lord will be with them. The ordinary and routine will no longer be ordinary. Jesus is there waiting to serve and nourish them. This story is how the first Christian community recognized how God made provision for them in Christ. Throughout the centuries it has served to invite believers to that same realization. Through Jesus we are shown that God’s bounty takes in what we ourselves are and have. We too are invited to engage the rich truths of this encounter.
There are times in our lives when it is hard to recognize Christ. Situations and circumstances can overtake and overpower us. Senseless violence and injustice can shake our belief to the core. Great disappointments can rattle the foundations of our trust. At such times blindness rather than sight seems to be the norm in our lives. It is in that darkness that the Risen Lord claims us, not with cheap and easy answers, not with sentimental or magical solutions, but with the power of one who knows us and loves us as we truly are. In this encounter, there was no trumpet, no fanfare. He sees them, their condition, their situation, and in the act of being seen, the beloved disciple recognizes the Lord. Never underestimate the power and effect of being seen and accepted for who we are.
The lectionary today couples this text with the story of Saul’s conversion. Like Saul, we can be so sure of our mission, purpose, and ourselves one minute. The next minute, in a flash, we are thrown. The false self is shattered, clarity of sight and purpose are gone. All our plans and schemes vanish in the dust. We are left with our confusion, our blindness, and our loss. Conversion begins with restlessness in the heart. Often our disenchantment comes not from failure but from success. It is success that disappoints us because we had so expected it to be the high point of our life. We get what we want and we find it lacking.
Saul was at the peak of his power. Yet, the story isn’t so much about Saul as it is about the way God works to change lives. That includes Ananias. In our need to control it’s easy to identify with Ananias. He felt the need, as we so often do, to run a competency test on God. “You must be kidding. This guy is out to get us! Are you sure you know what you’re doing? Are you sure you want me to do this?” Experience teaches us to be cautious about people’s ability to change. The story is a helpful reminder that conversion is not primarily about us but about God. Our task is to remain open to what God is doing in and around us, even when it makes us uneasy. A consistent theme in Scripture is that when God is the agent of change, all things are possible
Whether with the disciples or Saul, these resurrection stories have power to transform us only if we encounter them in terms of our own lives. Christ is risen now. He touches our lives today. We are his; he feeds us as often as we choose to receive that gift in the Eucharist. He strengthens, heals, and sends us out to accomplish his purpose, whether we comprehend it or approve of it. Let this Easter season not be a time of celebrating the encounters of others with Christ, but a time for each of us to strive to meet Christ in the ordinary, to meet him in the unexpected, and even in the darkness.
Of course, we have to have eyes to see. Only the beloved disciple recognized Jesus. It is the one who rested on Jesus’ heart. The relationship between resting in Jesus, being the beloved, immersing us in his presence, is key to recognizing him. Our most impetuous inclinations, keeping busy or seeking comfort, in whatever form, keeps us blinded to his presence in our lives and in the faces of those around us. There is a beloved disciple and an impetuous Peter in each of us. Resting in Jesus’ heart sharpens our spiritual vision and helps us recognize his nurturing presence in all circumstances. Having thus been fed, tending and feeding his sheep is a tangible way of staying in relationship with him, as well as expressing our love for him. Our religious experience is not a private affair. Whatever shape or form it takes, it is for the building of the kingdom
This story is a sort of epilogue tacked on to the end of John’s Gospel. It’s a dramatic appeal to us not to consign Christ to the past. This epilogue awakens memories of the darkness of our hunger, our flight from our true self, our failure and denial to recognize Christ in ourselves and others, but at the same time reminds us that none of this darkness has overcome the light. John’s epilogue affirms what his Prologue affirms. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (1:5) The Risen Christ still sees, still calls, still feeds, still empowers all of us, doubters and deniers. The real-life drama of Christ continues into the present moment and beyond. +Amen.