3rd Sunday of Easter (C)
Bishop Barron Sunday Podcast
Fr. Andrew Ricci
Friends, the last stanza of a poem, the last chapter of a novel, or the last lines of a play are of extraordinary significance, but only if you’ve read the whole work up to that point. Similarly, to understand the book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible, we have to attend to the great sweep of the story beginning in Genesis. The thrust of that biblical narrative—that we are meant to give God right praise, and from right praise follows right order—reaches its culmination in Christ, the Lamb who was slain, who brings the whole universe together in right praise.
In today’s reading from Revelation, John is in the heavenly court and he sees angels, elders, and living creatures, countless in number, all standing around the throne and crying out in loud praise. This is a supreme liturgical act, an act of right praise. And whom are they worshiping? Not a mighty prince, not a great warrior, not a cosmic force, but a lamb, one of the meekest and tiniest of animals, who has been slain—Jesus Christ. The Church saw this evening sacrifice as the perfect act of praise—and now the cosmic Church is gathered around it and associating itself with it.
The passage from the Acts of the Apostles, which is our first reading for this weekend, is surprisingly instructive for our time in the life of the Church. It witnesses to something that is essential to Christianity, namely, that we are a relentlessly public religion. This is not a privatized religion we’re talking about. This is a faith and a kingdom meant for everyone on earth.
Today’s reading from the Gospel of John offers a compelling meditation about the importance of Christ for the activities of the Church. Christians are meant to be fishers of men, but when we operate according to our own agendas and efforts we will catch nothing. We must act under the Lord’s direction. If we follow Christ we will do great good indeed.
Our Gospel for today, taken from the wonderful 21st chapter of St. John’s Gospel, is filled with mystical and symbolic allusions. The disciples in the boat are evocative of the church; Jesus on the shore calls to mind the eschatological fulfillment toward which the church is journeying; Peter calls to mind both sinful Adam and the promise of redemption. In all of it, we see a picture of discipleship.
At the end of his gospel, St. John presents a beautiful icon of the Church. Peter and his companions are fishing on the Sea of Tiberias. When they look to the risen Christ, they have success, hauling in a catch that symbolizes all the people of the world. This is the Church at its best: illumined by Christ, it gathers the nations into the ark of salvation.