Read Acts 5:27-32,40-41, Ps. 30:2,4-6,11-13, Rev. 5:11-14, John 21:1-19
“He said to him the third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter felt hurt because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.’” (John 21:17)
The word “love” is the most misused word in the English dictionary. Very often, when we say we love someone, we either do not understand the implication of what we say or we are not prepared to practically live out the meaning of that love. In truth, telling people we love them is just a trick we play to obtain certain things from them. This applies especially in our relationship with God. Jesus said it plainly: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15)
We often sing this song in the church: “Jesus, I love you, all I have is yours, yours am I Lord, yours I want to be” but when faced with temptation, we change it to: “Jesus, go away, my body belongs to me, I can do whatever I like with it, I will get rich or die trying, Jesus please go away.” Just like promising a lady undying love, only to deny ever knowing her after she becomes pregnant for you, many Christians today profess undying love for God only to deny ever knowing Him by their daily choices.
One musician sang: “Love is wicked.” The truth is that love is sacrifice. We cannot claim to love God if we are not willing to suffer even a single insult on behalf of God. We cannot claim to love God if we are not willing to abandon our dreams of becoming rich and wealthy in life to answer our calling. Of course, not all of us have been called by God to become ministers like Peter and the other apostles but each of us has been called to love God with all our minds, our hearts, and our strength. Each of us has been called to walk as children of the light, to put God first in what we do, to be pure in heart, and to keep His commandments. All these require sacrifice, all these require letting go of the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. (Cf. 1st John 2:15)
The last line of our first reading today states: “Then they left the presence of the council rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.” (Acts 5:41) If as a Christian, you cannot take joy in suffering for the sake of Christ, it means you are not yet grounded in the faith and before you know it, you may abandon Christianity. One of the secrets of the success of the early Christian Church was that Christians understood completely following Christ meant denying themselves and taking up their crosses daily. (Cf. Mat. 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23).
The early Christian Church succeeded largely because their love for God was not predicated on material prosperity but on the hope of eternal glory. They were willing to store up treasures in heaven where moth and rust cannot consume and thieves cannot break in and steal. (Cf. Matt 6:19, Mark 6:20, and Luke 12:21). As the saying goes, the blood of the martyrs is the seed of Christianity. Let us now consider our lessons for today:
1. If you truly love God, the world would hate you.
What played out in today’s first reading is simply a confirmation of the words of Jesus in John 15:18-20, “If the world hates you, be aware that it hated me before it hated you. If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world-- therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘Servants are not greater than their master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also.” Do not expect the world to love you for being a Christian or for shining your light, rather expect hatred and persecution. This world is not our own.
2. If you truly love God, you would obey God rather than men.
Despite the threats, beatings, and imprisonment, Peter and the apostles said to the assembly: “We must obey God rather than any human authority.” (Acts 5:29). Have in mind that the law of God is greater and higher than any human authority. In fact, any human law that goes against the law of God is null and void. The apostles were warned against preaching in the name of Jesus but they so zealously proclaimed the name of Jesus that today, there is virtually nowhere in the world where the name of Jesus has not been preached.
If you ever find yourself asking whether to obey God or to obey man, just remember the words of Jesus: “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28, Luke 12:4). Also, remember what Jesus said in Matthew 10:32-33, “Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.
3. If you truly love God, you will promote His Kingdom.
It is not enough that we live good lives, we must use every means available to us to promote God’s kingdom on earth. By returning to fishing after two apparitions of the risen Jesus, Peter made a great mistake. That night, they worked as hard as they could but caught nothing. This experience teaches us that, having been called by God, we cannot find success anywhere else. Jonah tried to run from God when he was called to preach to the Ninevites but when he found himself in the belly of the fish, he begged for a second chance.
Secondly, it shows us that when God is not involved in any undertaking we embark upon, it amounts to futility. Jesus told us: “Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me… Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit because apart from me you can do nothing. Whoever does not abide in me is thrown away like a branch and withers.” (John 15:4-6) Whether you are a doctor, a lawyer, a farmer, a teacher, a businessman/woman, in whatever field you find yourself in, make sure that God is involved in what you are doing. Talk about God to your clients, play Christian songs in your work environment, dress decently, be kind to strangers, be a man or woman of integrity; always say the truth. The same disciples who worked all night and caught nothing suddenly made a huge catch when they started talking to Jesus the next morning.
Thirdly, through the huge catch of fish, Jesus practically explained the concept of ‘providence’ to the apostles. God will always provide for His work. Anyone who sets out to work for God should never be worried about what to eat, what to drink or what to wear. God knows what we need these things but if we just trust Him and do His work, they shall be given to us. (Cf. Matthew 6:31-33). They caught a total of one hundred and fifty-three large fishes equivalent to the number of the known nations in the world at that time. Peter understood this was a sign – he was no longer to catch fish but to fish for men; he was no longer to worry about where to get food or clothing because God would provide.
4. If you truly love God, you will feed His Sheep.
For the three times that Peter denied ever knowing Jesus, Jesus made him take back his words by asking: “Do you love me?” Before a little girl, before a young man, and before some bystanders at the fireplace, Peter said: “No” but now Jesus gives him a chance to say “Yes”. This experience teaches us the importance of restitution which is an important part of the process of obtaining God’s forgiveness. It is not enough to say, "I am sorry", you have to find a way to undo the wrong you have done.
Jesus also added the following: “Feed my lambs, tend my sheep, feed my sheep.” Jesus is not a fan of audio love; He demands something practical. St. James would say: “If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,’ and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? (James 2:15-16). And as Jesus makes us understand: “Whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple, truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.” (Matthew 10:41-42).
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, may my love for you grow deeper every day that I may seek first your kingdom and be willing to sacrifice even my very life for your sake. Amen.
Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. (3rd Sunday of Easter. Bible Study: Acts 5:27-32,40-41, Ps. 30:2,4-6,11-13, Rev. 5:11-14, John 21:1-19)
© Rev. Fr. Evaristus Abu