3rd Sunday of Pascha

holymyrrhbearers.jpgToday the Orthodox commemorate the Holy Myrrh-bearing women: Sts Mary Magdalene, Mary the wife of Clopas, Joanna, Salome, mother of the sons of Zebedee, Martha and Mary, sisters of Lazarus. Also St Joseph of Arimathea, and Nicodemus who accompanied the women to the tomb.

In the empty church we will preach on the third appearance of Jesus to the disciples. What follows is an approximation of my homily.

The purpose of Abraham’s call from God was to be a blessing to the nations. He was to be the father of myriads and these myriads were to share the Lord with all.

The purpose of the Law given to Moses was to improve human relationships with the Lord and with one another. That in turn would be a gift to the world, Paul says in Romans 2, because the Law convicts all (both Jew and Gentile) of their conscience and attitude toward God.

And the purpose of the prophets? God told the people to bring light to the Gentiles. (cf Isa 19) The prophets reminded the people of their primary task: to live with God in such a way that others would also come to know who God was/is/ever shall be.

Jesus said that He came to the lost sheep of Israel (Mt 15.24). Salvation comes from the Jews (Jn 4.22). Jesus taught the people what it meant to live in a right relationship with God so that they could minister to the others in the world. The ministry of reconciliation, the purpose of the Last/First Supper, the giving of the Holy Spirit, the gathering of the nations, the last judgment: all of these are Jesus’ images and re-presentations of the meaning and purpose of God in our lives. And this, in turn, is the meaning that God would have us provide for others’ lives.

Last week’s Gospel was about trusting in Jesus’ Resurrection. In addressing Thomas, Jesus’ concern was for all those who would come to believe without having seen Him. That’s about evangelization. Today’s gospel is the wonderful story of the disciples fishing. Is the story about fishing? Probably. Is the story about the fishermen? Of course. But one of the parts of the story that we often overlook is that the story is also about all the different kinds of fish found in the net. The early church understood this to be John’s version of Jesus’ Great Commission we find at the end of Matthew: Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations. In other words: we’re to catch the whole world. All types of people need to be caught up in the net and brought into the boat—which is the Church. In fact from the earliest times that’s the way this has been understood. Cyril of Alexander (378-444) said it was a symbolic number – 100, meaning the fullness of the Gentiles, plus 50, representing the remnant of Israel, and 3, representing the trinity. Augustine (354-430) discovered 153 is the sum of 1 +2 +3 +4 +5 +6 +7 +8 +9 +10 +11 +12 +13 +14 +15 +16 +17. Then he proposed that seventeen was a symbolic number representing the Ten Commandments and the seven gifts of the spirit. Jerome (347-420) suggested there were 153 fish because there were 153 different kinds of fish in the Sea of Tiberius. Therefore, the catch was a symbol that the Gospel is for everybody, every kind of person in the world.

And so I ask us: what is the role of our faith in Jesus in our everyday life? Following today’s lesson: what are we catching? That’s one of my jobs and goals as a priest and pastor: to try to help people see the relevance of Jesus and His Resurrection for their every-day life. Sometimes we get the impression that people think that their faith is something way out there (i.e., heaven)—or only in here (i.e., in these church buildings); in other words, their faith isn’t something that really affects their lives. But it does; it must; or it isn’t faith. It must or its just superstition or psychosis (Psychosis is a generic psychiatric term for a mental state often described as involving a “loss of contact with reality.”). If our faith isn’t connected to our reality—to our daily lives—then we are deranged.

So, how will we internalize the values of the gospel, those wonderful values that Jesus taught us? And chief among these values is the necessity of bringing people to Christ. It is only when we internalize them that they become a part of our life. It is only then that they really begin to shape our life. That’s accomplished when people enter into a more intimate relationship with the Jesus as Lord. That is the ultimate goal; that is what our Resurrection faith is all about.

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