The One Condition

Fr. Michael Guastello’s Homily May 5, 2019

“So it was the year 1798, this was during the French Revolution and Napoleon had taken Pope Pius VI prisoner for refusing to relinquish his power.  Napoleon had a meeting with the Pope and in this meeting he told Pope Pius VI his intention to destroy the Catholic Church. He said this was a goal that he had in mind that he wanted to destroy the Catholic Church.  Holy Father responded, ‘Well how are you gonna do that? The priests have been trying to destroy the Church for over 1,000 years!’ The Church is divinely instituted. If you want any proof, it’s still around. We’re still here.  If we think about it, what country or company or organization is around for 2,000 years? And so we were instituted by Christ at the very beginning when he instituted the Church. We are still around today and we ain’t going anywhere because it is a divinely instituted organization instituted by Jesus Christ himself.

Now in today’s Gospel our risen Lord appears to seven of his disciples on the Sea of Tiberius, but have you ever wondered why Jesus appeared to only a few of his disciples a handful of times after his resurrected?  Why didn’t he make himself more available? Wouldn’t it have made more sense for him to make multiple appearances to more people in an effort to strengthen this divine institution of his? Well Cardinal John Henry Newman actually commented on this.  He said that, ‘If Jesus had appeared publicly and indiscriminately to all, the power of the resurrection would have been lessened. Some would believe, others wouldn’t. Some would get it, others wouldn’t. Some would be fascinated, others indifferent.  Cardinal Newman went on to say, ‘Instead he chose to appear to a small group of his dedicated disciples who knew him, who loved him, and who understood him confident that they would be effective bearers of his message. Friends, you and I are those disciples today who now eat with him and drink with him after his resurrection at his table of plenty and so we have been called.  We have been called to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ risen from the dead. It’s also interesting to look at our Gospel today in that John gives us a series of flashbacks to before Jesus’ crucifixion. Today we read that peter and the other apostles are fishing. This is reminiscent of when Jesus called his first apostles to put down their fishing nets in order to follow him.  Today we read that the apostles climbed on to the shore to see Jesus with a charcoal fire. The last time we read about a fire in the Gospel it was Peter who was warming himself by the fire during Jesus’ interrogation after he’d been arrested from the garden of Gethsemane and then finally we have Jesus inviting them to share in this meal of fish and bread, a flashback to Jesus’ multiplication of the loaves and fish in order to feed the 5,000.  What is the author trying to tell us in all this? Why these flashbacks? What’s the point? Remember that there’s nothing in John’s Gospel that is coincidence or there by accident or mistake. Well I think it’s simple. It’s to point out to us that Jesus is faithful. It is an illustration to his fidelity. He was faithful to his disciples before his death and crucifixion and he is faithful to them in the glory of his resurrection and so he continues the same pattern of behavior even though they were not faithful to him.  Even though they messed up, they abandoned him, they denied him, they literally left him for dead. The same thing goes for us as well. He is faithful to us and he doesn’t love us any less when we mess up. His love for us is constant. His love for us is pure and I think this is evident in his conversation with Peter at the end of our Gospel today. Jesus takes Peter aside to talk to him. Now remember their last encounter prior to Jesus’ death Peter denies knowing Jesus three times. Today, Jesus gives Peter a chance to affirm his love and renew the commissioning of Peter as his Vicar.  The one condition for this is love and so he asks Peter three times, ‘Do you love me? Do you love me? Do you love me?’ Love. this is the one condition for all of us who desire to be followers of Jesus Christ and note here that Jesus doesn’t criticize Peter.  He doesn’t lay into him. You know, ‘What happened to you? Where were you? Why did you do that in my hour of need?’  He doesn’t say any of this, just simply asks him, ‘Do you love me?’ And Jesus asks us this same question as well and so a point for us to take home is that God loves us even when we mess up.  God loves us even when we mess up royally, even when we fail, even when we turn our back on God through sin he doesn’t give up on us. He doesn’t stop loving us. He continues to pursue us no matter what and he is always, always, ready and willing to forgive us just as he was with those first disciples, those who were called in the very beginning to spread the Good News in those very early first days of Christianity and those of us he calls his disciples today, to spread the Good News of the victory of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.”