Homily – May – 2022

HOMILY
ARCHBISHOP CHRISTOPHER PROWSE
CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF CANBERRA AND GOULBURN
ST CHRISTOPHER’S CATHEDRAL
1 MAY 2022
THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER (YEAR C)
AND MASS ONLINE

 Readings  Acts 5: 27-32. 40-41  Rv 5: 11-14  Gospel John 21: 1-14

 A phrase often used over the years when reflecting on this Easter Season is “Easter Paradox.” The word “Paradox” is used but perhaps its meaning is not well known. Paradox means something that seems to be contradictory, seems to be absurd.

This is often in relation to the post Resurrection appearance of Jesus to the Disciples. He seems to be so close to them and responds as always. For instance in today’s Gospel He eats breakfast with them, He speaks with them, they can touch Him, and He listens to them. Yet, on the other hand, He is so very different. They all saw Him dead but now He is alive. He is not a resuscitated corpse or a ghost. However, He does walk through locked doors and is seen in several places simultaneously.

The Resurrection has brought in a completely new dimension of our human existence.

A theological word used, with regard to this, rather than the word “Paradox” – it is the word “Mystery.”

A mystery in not some sort of puzzle like a murder mystery. It means that we are involved in something of such depth that we cannot comprehend its beauty. For instance, an example of this might be diving into the beautiful waters of the Great Barrier Reef in North Queensland. It is like diving into a new existence of our life. There is all the beautiful coloured coral and thousands of different types of fish species. We are immersed in it but we cannot grasp its beauty. This is what is meant by the word, “Mystery.”

Rather than just talking abstractly, the Church gives us key personalities who encounter the Risen Jesus in this Easter Season.

Last week we had the example of Thomas who finds himself face to face with the wounds of Jesus.

Today the focus is on St Peter.

In the weeks ahead, there will be other Biblical personalities.

In all these encounters, we could say there are at least three common characteristics.

The first common characteristic is that in the encounter with the Easter Mysteries of our faith it is always invitational and transformative.

Jesus invites Peter and the Apostles to bring fish so that He can cook breakfast for them. It is an invitation and for St Peter, at least, it is transformative. He moves completely into the Easter Mysteries.

He is alerted to this when St John shouts out in today’s Gospel, “It is the Lord.” Perhaps Peter is thinking of the first time that he met the Lord on the Sea of Galilee. There were similarities with what is happening now. This day, like previously, they had caught no fish and when the Lord told them to fish in a different way and they responded positively, they hauled a huge amount of fish. This happens again. Indeed the Gospel of St John is even more specific. The text talks about big fish and 153 of them. Commentators over the centuries have felt that perhaps at the time of Jesus there were 153 known nations of the earth. This indicates that Jesus, our Eucharistic Lord, is here to feed everybody. The word “Catholic” means universal. Jesus is always inviting people to a meal. Here we have echoes of the Eucharist.

We then find that typically impetuous Peter responds with so much enthusiasm. The text states that he “jumped into the water.”

A second common characteristic is that the encounter with the Easter Mysteries involves repentance and surrender.

We recall how last week with Thomas, he says “My Lord and my God.” Jesus then says to him “Doubt no longer but believe.”

Now in the longer version of today’s Gospel we find Jesus saying three times to Peter “Do you love me?” To the three denials of Peter a short time earlier, Jesus now calls him to repentance by asking him to pledge his love. Peter readily does this, without really knowing what he is saying; he does surrender to the Risen Lord. It seems to be a kind of rebirth or a born again experience. This is exactly what Baptism does; we are born again into eternal life.

The third and final common characteristic (I am sure there are many more) is that the encounter with the Easter Mysteries always sends us out on Mission – to be Evangelisers and Witnesses of the Resurrection.

Legend has it that St Thomas evangelised in present-day Asia and especially on the West Coast of India, in particular the Southern part of India, today’s Kerela.

Even today, we can meet people who are from the Southern Region of India calling themselves “Thomas Christians.” It is believed Thomas met his Martyrdom in this geographical area.

As for St Peter, we find from the First Reading today that he remained in Jerusalem in the first instance and spoke with such boldness and conviction that it does seem like he has been reborn, an Easter Peter! When he is challenged by the authorities the Scripture says in the First Reading “In reply Peter and the Apostles said, Obedience to God comes before obedience to men…you who had him executed by hanging on a tree…We are witnesses to all this.” Here is the Easter Peter speaking with great boldness to the Resurrection of Jesus.

Our Church history indicates that he eventually left Jerusalem and went to Rome. Here he met is Martyrdom. We are told he indicated that he did not want to be crucified upright like Jesus. So he was crucified according to his wishes, upside down. Here is his magnificent humility coming through at the final moments of his life. It is upon the original tomb of St Peter that St Peter’s Basilica is built.

It is interesting to note that in these three examples there are overtones of the Sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist. These will be developed in the centuries following. Sufficed to say, in summary, all of us too must open ourselves as witnesses of the Resurrection to God’s invitations and transforming presence, to repent, surrender, and be prepared to be sent as Missionary Disciples wherever God calls us to go.

Let us think over these days how the example of the early Apostles has implications for our own walk with the Lord.

A beautiful expression to remember as a kind of “Gospill” is what St John said in recognising the Risen Lord. He shouted out to all the Apostles with great love to the God of all love, “It is the Lord.”

We now have a little Liturgical ceremony and introduce you to Gavin Keating. Gavin has had a celebrated career in the Army but now feels that God is calling him to the Permanent Diaconate. He is living out his Easter vocation in a new way. His wife Myra and sons Michael and Patrick support him. We welcome them and Permanent Deacon Mick O’Donnell and his wife Cora as we now move to this short “Rite of Admission to Candidacy for Holy Order.”