DO NOT BE SATISFIED: A HOMILY ON THE THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR C
Today’s readings remind me of what St. John Paul the Great said to young people. He said “Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep, and let down your nets for a catch.” In order to understand this quote, we have to understand that there are three levels on which a human person can operate. The first level is the UNNATURAL level, where we operate like animals. At this level, sin and evil take hold of a person and his life is no different from that of a beast. This we see especially in the lives of adicts, perverts, drunkards, etc. If your relative or friend is at this level, you do not want to identify with him/her. Usually at this stage, they lose any sense of shame or self dignity. There is another level which is the NATURAL level. At this level, we are decient and reasonable. This is the level where we know what we want and we protect our own interests. We seek what we consider good for us and we avoid whatever is harmful to us. We are more or less like business people; maximise your profit and minimize your loss. The disciples, without the Holy Spirit, operated on this level. That is why Judas betrayed Jesus. There was something in it for him. That is why Peter denied Jesus. He had to protect his own life. That is why the disciples locked up the rooms. They had to make sure they are ‘safe’. Because of how reasonable this sounds, we are tempted to remain on this level. But as far as God is concerned, this is mediocrity. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity.
At the time: Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberius; and he revealed himself in this way, Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and the others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and went into the boat; but that night they caught nothing. Just as the day was breaking Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know it was Jesus, Jesus said to them “Children, have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to the disciples “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some,” So they cast it now they we able to haul it in, for quantity of fish. That disciples who Jesus Loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his clothes, for he was stripped for work, and sprang into the sea. But the other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the Land, but about a hundred yards off. When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire there, with fish lying on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Petr went abroad and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, a hundred and fifty-three of them; and although there were so many, they net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. When they have finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A second time he said to him, “Simon, son of John do you love me? Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” And he said to him, Lord you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you , when you were young, you fastened your own belt and walked where you would: but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will fasten your belt for you and bring you where you do not wish to go.” (This he said to show by what death he was to glorify God.) And after this he said to him, “Follow me.” : This gospel begins with Peter and a few other disciples deciding to go back to the life they were living before Jesus called them, namely fishing. There are two ways to look at this. We can see it from the point of vieww that they had given up on following Jesus, since he is now considered dead. From this point of view, going back to the life they are familiar with is not a good thing. It can be seen as them going back to how they began and from there retracing their steps. From that point of view, it would be a positive thing. In any case, they are back to where they began, but life is also teaching them that they cannot succeed in that without Jesus. Life with Christ can be so demanding that we are tempted to go back to where we were before we met Christ. This might sound like going back to the NATURAL, but those who prefer the NATURAL often find themselves in the UNNATURAL. We often say ‘I am just being human’, not knowing ‘We have become less than human’. Jesus comes along and asks them to put out the net for a catch. They did and caught so much fish that they could not drag them out. Jesus then takes Peter back to the charcoal fire, where Peter had denied Jesus three times. Jesus invites them for a meal, which is symbolic of the Eucharist. After the meal, Jesus asks Peter ‘Do you love me more than these?’ We can understant ‘these’ to mean the other disciples, which means that Jesus is asking if Peter loves Him more than the other disciples love Him. In this case it can also mean if Peter loves Him more than he loves the other disciples. But I prefer to go with the understanding that Jesus is asking if Peter loves Him more than he loves the fishes, meaning fishing. In this case, Jesus would be asking if Peter prefers to go back to fishing or to follow Him. While Jesus was asking Jesus about Agape love, Peter was responding with filia love. But Jesus accepts and tells peter that as a young man, you do what you want, but as an old man, you do even things you dont want to do. Jesus is speaking to him about spirirual maturity, not physical maturity. The person who is spiritually young will prefer to operate on the NATURAL level. But when we attain spiritual maturity, then we will operate on the SUPERNATURAL level. At this level, it is not about my interest, what I want or what profits me; it is about doing the will of God, sometimes foolishly. This SUPERNATURAL life is seen in our first and second readings.
In those days: The high priest questioned the apostle, saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Saviour, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witness to these things, and so it the Holy Spirit Who God has given to those who obey him.” And they charged the apostles not to speak I the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.: Here we see the high priest, though physically old, but spiritually young. We also see Peter and the other apostles, though physically young, but spiritually old. NATURALLY, after being in prison for an office, you do not want to be caught committing the same offence. But because they are now at the SUPERNATURAL level, they were not afraid to return to the temple and start preaching, just after being miraculously released by an angel. Also they were not afraid to stand before the high priest and profess what they believe, even when they know they can be killed for it. Peter, speaking supernaturally declares that obedience to God comes before obedience to men. On the natural level, you obey your instinct, which will always tell you to protect yourself. When you are old, there is nothing to protect. This is spiritual maturity. Their desire is to do the will of God, even if they are killed for doing so. Now, Peter’s love is no longer filia but agape. This is the difference the Holy Spirit has made in their lives. Without the Holy Spirit, our love will be filia, which is good enough. But with the Holy Spirit, our love becomes agape. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Do not be satisfied with just being human.
I, John, looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creature and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands or thousands, saying with a loud voice. “Worthy is the lamb who is slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessings!” And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth, and under the earth and in the sea, and all therein, saying, “To him who sits upon the throne and the lamb be blessings and honor and glory and might for ever and ever!” And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshipped.: Our prayer can also happen on three levels. When we pray in our UNNATURAL state, we can even pray and ask God to kill someone, just because we do not like that person. We can be doing something evil and ask God to make us succeed in it. It is like trying to bring God to our level. We can also pray on the NATURAL LEVEL, where we pray for what profits us and pray against what does not profit us. And this is good enough. But here we see John praying in the SUPERNATURAL LEVEL. This can be likened to the Holy Mass. When you attend Mass in the Natural, all you will see is Mrs and Mrs so and so around you. But if you are in the Supernatural, you will, like John, hear the sound of countless angels and saints. This is why before the Holy Holy Holy, we say ‘May our voices be one with theirs’, meaning that at mass, we are praying along with those in heaven (angels and saints). We will also see that the whole of creation is praising God. When you are in the natural, you will look at animals, the sun, the moon, the sea, etc. as creatures, just living their lives. But in the supernatural, we will see them praising and worshiping God daily. We often find the Mass boring because we do not know what is happening there. When the priest says ‘Behold the lamb of God’, most people will still see a piece of bread that has been split, but the spiritually old will see a lamb that has been slain, Jesus Christ our saviour. When the readings are going on, the natural will hear how Mrs so and so is pronouncing the words, but the supernatural will hear God speaking to us. When we worship God, we should be in the Spirit and not in the flesh. That way, like John, we will see spiritual realities. This has nothing to do with going into a frenzy and pretending to be in the Spirit. This is deeper than that. It is deeper than just being too emotional. It is only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit. Only Him can take us from the unnatural, past the natural to the SUPERNATURAL. Like St. John Paul the great will tell us ‘Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocity’. God says to us ‘Do not be satisfied with the natural. Do not be satisfied with just being human’. Cast out your net into the deep. You will be surprised with the catch you will make.