Thoughts on Third Sunday of Easter

Here are some thoughts and talking points on today’s Gospel, taken from various sources, and used at today’s Mass. I don’t want to take credit for all of this. The Concho Padre

At the time when St John wrote his gospel, the first persecutions had already broken out.
• The Roman Emperors had already begun their policy of executing Christians for treason, because Christians refused to worship the Roman gods.
• One of John’s themes, therefore, in all of his New Testament writings, is the power of the Church to grow and to endure even through difficult times, even through violent persecutions.
This comes out in the Gospel passage we just heard, in the image of a fishing net full of fish – an analogy for the Church that appears more than once in the Gospels.
• The Apostles are feeling stir-crazy in these days after the Resurrection, before receiving the Holy Spirit.
• They decide to go fishing.
• Then the Lord appears to them and engineers a miraculous catch of fish, just as he had done three years earlier.
• When Peter brings the catch to shore, St John makes a point of mentioning a curious detail: the net was “full of one hundred and fifty-three large fish. Even though there were so many, the net was not torn.”
• Peter brought the overstuffed net onto the shore safely, almost miraculously – so many large fish should have torn that net, but they didn’t.
The net is the Church.
• It is filled with believers whom Christ gathers out of the ocean of time and history through the ministry of Peter and his successors, the popes.
• And Peter is the one who hauls this supernatural community onto the shores of eternity at the end of time, where they will all feast with the Lord.
In spite of sufferings, scandals and sins, in spite of obstacles, challenges and persecutions, Christ’s Church will continue to grow and expand under the ministry of Peter, and it will stay intact until it is brought safely home to heaven – Peter’s net will not tear.
Our culture is so focused on current events and headlines, that we can easily lose sight of this perspective. But a brief glance at history can remedy that.
The mere fact of the Church’s endurance through twenty centuries, maintaining the same doctrine, the same forms of worship (seven sacraments), and the same structure (bishops united under the pope’s leadership to serve believers) is, without a doubt, miraculous.
It only becomes more amazing when we take a look at the actual obstacles and enemies it had to overcome.
• The Roman Empire tried to stamp out Christianity for 300 years. That Empire is gone, the Church remains.
• In the Middle Ages, the Ottoman Empire extended over even more territory than Rome had, and conquered many Christian lands. It invaded Europe and tried to do away with the Church. That Empire fell, but the Church remains.
• In the sixteenth century, most of northern Europe rebelled against the Catholic Church in what was called the Protestant Reformation. In some countries, being Catholic became a capital punishment. Yet today, the Catholic Church remains the largest Christian community, and in those countries, the Church remains.
• In the seventeenth century a new Islamic Empire, the Turkish Empire, tried again to overrun Christian civilization. That Empire is gone, the Church remains.
• In the eighteenth century, the French Revolution tried to eradicate the Church in France, martyring hundreds, if not thousands. The Revolution passed, the Church endured.
• In the nineteenth century, Napoleon conquered all of continental Europe, usurped the Church hierarchy, and imprisoned two popes in efforts to take over the Catholic Church. His Empire passed away; the Church remains.
• In the twentieth century, Soviet Communism tried to wipe out the Catholic Church in all of its territories, as did the German Nazis. Those regimes are gone, the Church remains.
• Today the saga continues, in Africa, the Middle East, China, and Vietnam…
The Church has endured, and it will continue to endure, just as Christ promised.
Peter will bring the net to shore, overstuffed with large fishes, and the net will not be torn.
How can we be sure to stay inside this Kingdom, this Church that will endure forever?
How can we be sure not to go astray? Did Jesus give us any sure guide?
Yes, he did. The sure guide is Peter, Peter and his successors, the Popes.
• Jesus established his Church, promised to be with that Church until the end of time, and commanded Peter to lead that Church, to “feed his sheep”, to “feed his lambs”.
• If we didn’t need a shepherd, Jesus would not have given us one.
• We need one because in this fallen world there are many dead-end paths, seductive voices, temptations, false shepherds.
• Only Peter and his successors, the popes, have received the divine guarantee to point out the path of Christ in the midst of confusion and unrest.
It is not always easy to follow the Pope’s teachings.
• When we follow Peter, sometimes that means following him to the cross, because Peter followed Christ so closely that he too ended up being humiliated and crucified, in Rome, under the Roman Emperor, Nero.
• And yet, that is the sure path to life; it was Peter’s net that was not torn; it was Peter who hauled that net safely onto the shore.
Today, as Christ comes again to feed our souls through the ministry of this Church which has grown and endured through the centuries under the guidance of Peter, let’s thank the Lord for taking such good care of us.
And let’s promise him that we will do our part too, listening to the teaching of his Vicar, Pope Francis, striving to understand it, and obeying it out of love for the Lord.

The Concho Padre (from various sources)

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