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  • Homily for the Third Sunday of Easter, April 9, 2016
  • Romanus Cessario O.P.

The miraculous catch of fish (John 21:1-14) marks the third of the Resurrection appearances. Throughout the forty days of Easter, we join the Apostles, the Blessed Mother, and the other chosen witnesses whose faith is confirmed, whose hope is strengthened, and, above all, whose love now finds its form in God. We also share their astonishment at seeing the Risen Christ. Forty days of Lent prepared us to focus on spiritual things. Forty days of Easter instills in us, as today's Collect says, a "renewed joyfulness of spirit." The Gregorian chants used at Easter communicate this joyfulness with subdued, not excited, tones. The ancient practice signals something of what Easter joy produces in the Christian soul: recollection, not exuberance. Spiritual joy comes from pondering the mysteries of faith, not enthusing about them.

Why does the exultant Church, awash in Easter joy, maintain recollection? The answer lies in the words that the Risen Christ addresses to Peter. Once breakfast by the Sea of Tiberius is over, Peter receives the charge that inaugurates pastoral care in the Church: "Feed my lambs"; "Tend my sheep"; "Feed my sheep." Then, immediately, Peter learns of his own death by crucifixion. In other words, Peter learns that the Resurrection, in one sense, marks only a beginning. He glimpses the "much more" (John 16:12) of which Jesus spoke at the Last Supper, much more to ponder before the Resurrection of the dead when Christ's rising will attain its incorruptible manifestation.

Priests and seminarians must take to heart this pondering, this beholding in faith. They, as it were, must take charge of the "much [End Page 9] more" that comes from the "Spirit of truth" (John 26:13). Why? Everything depends on their ministry. Our Lord's putting in juxtaposition pastoral charity and martyrdom teaches the sacred pastors of the Church (and those who aspire to become one) what to expect. Note well that Jesus never tells his apostles that everyone will love them. On the contrary, the apostles rejoice when they are found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name. What name is this? It is the Holy Name of Jesus.

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Last week, the Holy Father gave the Church Amoris Laetitia: The Joy of Love. While the exhortation addresses spouses and families, it also instructs priests, the Church's shepherds, about what to expect. "Feed my lambs" now exhibits new dimensions. "Tend my sheep" requires more of us. "Feed my sheep" translates into accompaniment. Whom must they accompany? They must accompany spouses, members of families, young people, the weak, the sinful, the confused, in a word, everybody. Yes, we live in an Enlightenment world: "Here comes everybody," to cite James Joyce.1 What must priests do for "Everybody"? They must feed and tend them, lead them to the Risen Christ, to the Name of Jesus, and to the Church and her Sacraments. After Amoris Laetitia, this obligation weighs more heavily on the shoulders of priests than it did before. Why? The Pope's exhortation gives priests specific instructions about how to care for the lambs and the sheep. Amoris Laetitia does not shy away from treating particulars. The more it escapes generalization, this more pastoral instruction descends into the particulars of life. So we need help from holy women and men to penetrate the Pope's words. Only saints can instruct about how properly to handle particulars.

Three saints of Carmel show the way. First, John of the Cross († 1591), the mystical author and ascetic, reminds priests of all kinds that bourgeois self-satisfaction wars against a heightened union with God. The least acquaintance with the Doctor of Carmel reveals that he eschewed ecclesiastical bureaucracy. In fact, "they" put him in jail. The Catholic parish is not a well-run supermarket, and the priest is not a manager. No secular models exist for feeding Christ's sheep. The only qualification that enables a man to tend Christ's sheep is love. John of the Cross rhapsodizes over this divine love come down to man: "O living flame of love / that tenderly wounds...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2470-5861
Print ISSN
1542-7315
Pages
pp. 9-11
Launched on MUSE
2017-04-06
Open Access
No
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