Life on the Chrism Trail

Homily for the Third Sunday of Easter

Confirmation at St. Joseph Parish

May 1, 2022
St. Joseph Parish
Rhineland, TX

Acts 5:27-32, 40b-41
Psalm 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11-12, 13
Revelation 5:11-14
John 21:1-19

John’s Gospel today reports the appearance of Jesus at the Sea of Tiberias. The disciples, who were confused and overcome by the events of Jesus’ death and resurrection, decide to return to more comfortable surroundings. Peter and a half-dozen others go back to what they know how to do best, in a sense, they try to return to their former way of life … they return to their boats and nets to go fishing. They fish all night long but come up empty. Their experience of Jesus and His love for them is so intense that they cannot return to the way things were before.

As day breaks, they hear a voice from the shore asking about their progress and recommending a change of direction. When they follow these instructions, they are swamped with fish. The person John calls the Beloved Disciple begins to piece things together: an indiscernible figure on the shore, a call to fish on the starboard side, an immense catch of fish, it must be the Lord. Peter was so excited about the news that he literally jumped out of the boat.

As they arrive at shore, Jesus is already preparing breakfast. John tells us that no one dared ask His identity, as if there were some lingering doubt. Either the disciples still could not believe that Jesus actually rose from the dead, or Christ was changed in appearance and not immediately recognizable. Almost as if to reassure them, Jesus repeats a familiar gesture – He breaks bread and gives it to them.

After breakfast, Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves Him, which reminds Peter and us of the three times Peter denied Jesus. In today’s conversation Jesus asks Peter, are you willing to sacrifice yourself for me. Peter, having been humbled by his threefold denial, responds in a paraphrase, “Let’s just be friends.” Jesus repeats the question, are you willing to give yourself for me – Peter responds, “I am your friend.” Jesus patiently meets Peter where he is and asks Peter for his friendship, because it is in friendship where self-sacrifice begins again. To be friends with the Lord requires the grace of a conversation, a dialogue – the dialogue of prayer by which Peter will grow towards self-sacrifice – the self-sacrifice of true Christ-like love – the love of the Cross – the death that Peter will undergo.

The conversation in the Gospel today is only part of an ongoing conversation that began with Christ’s first call to Peter to follow Him. The conversation intensified when Christ gave Peter the keys of binding and loosing and appointed him to be the bridge, the rock. The conversation continued at the Last Supper with the washing of Peter’s feet and his promised fidelity to be denied in futility. The conversation quiets at Calvary. The conversation echoes through the empty tomb, picks up again in the post-Resurrection scene depicted in today’s Gospel, reverberates through the peripheries of the world after Pentecost, and culminates in Peter’s martyrdom – the death for love that Jesus alludes to in today’s reading.

Jesus asks you the same questions today that He asked Peter in today’s Gospel, “Do you love me more than these?” By being confirmed today you are accepting the responsibility of loving Christ to give yourselves in sacrifice by loving your neighbor as yourself by keeping the Commandments and living as a true friend of Jesus in very hostile circumstances. For example, as you and your parents visit any university campus, including Catholic universities, where the Gospel is not upheld as the liberating truth of the world’s redemption, and this is likely what you will find: intellectual incoherence, moral degradation, intolerance of authentic freedom of thought and speech, the inciting of hatred among people of different races, the rejection of marriage as a free and permanent commitment between one man and one woman open to God’s gift of children, ideology masking itself as science by denying the unchanging quality of biological sex, abortion promoted as an essential human right and a positive good, a missionary zeal for anarchy, and growing persecution of Christianity at the very center of institutional life.

We are entering a dark time when unrighteousness is called freedom and blasphemy is taken as a mark of sophistication, when the proponents of these views demand not our respect and tolerance but our moral and spiritual capitulation. We must admit that Christian civilization is of the past, and now those of us who believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God and love Him are derided as unenlightened bigots. Christ is asking you, and through my ministry anointing you with the Holy Spirit, to believe Him and to bring the light of the Gospel to the people stumbling about in this dark time by imitating Jesus Christ who came not to be served but to serve.

As I prepare to confirm you, I remind you of the question Jesus puts to Peter. How do we love Jesus, not simply how much do we love Him, but how do we love Him? The anointing you will receive at Confirmation will strengthen you to answer that question and to respond courageously to the direction that Jesus gives in this conversation, “Feed my sheep. Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go. Follow me.”

%d bloggers like this: