15 April 2018

Homily - 15 April 2018 - The Third Sunday of Easter (B)

The Third Sunday of Easter (B)

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today, we hear the Apostle Saint Peter proclaim the truth of Jesus Christ to the people of Jerusalem. “The author of life you put to death,” he said, “but God raised him from the dead; of this we are witnesses” (Acts 3:15). In the discovery of the Lord’s burial clothes - but not of his body - and in the various encounters with the Risen Lord and the bestowal of the Holy Spirit, something changed in Saint Peter. No longer was he a man who cared more for his safety than for his loyalty to his Master, nor was he any longer afraid of the crowds but instead proclaimed the truth of the Christian faith to them. Why? He changed because he finally gave his heart over to Jesus. I might say he gave his entire heart over to Jesus, but then I would be arguing with Saint Augustine of Hippo.

Saint Augustine noticed that when Jesus asked for something to eat, the Apostles gave him not a whole fish, but only “a piece of baked fish” (Luke 24:42). Being intrigued by these two details, the piece of cooked fish, he wanted to know why. He concluded that

They offered him what they had: a portion of grilled fish [various translations translate the manner of cooking differently]. Grilled fish means martyrdom, faith proved by fire. Why is it only a portion? Paul says, “If I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing” (I Corinthians 13:3). Imagine a complete body of martyrs. Some suffer because of love, while others suffer out of pride. Remove the pride portion, offer the love portion. That is the food for Christ. Give Christ his portion. Christ loves the martyrs who suffered out of love.[1]

When the Lord first predicted his Passion and Death, Saint Peter gave the portion of his pride to the Lord when he told him, “No such thing shall ever happen to you” (Matthew 16:22). The giving of his pride earned him a stern rebuke from the Lord: “Get behind me, Satan” (Matthew 16:23)! In the end, however, Saint Peter gave the portion of his love to the Lord when he gave his life for the sake of his name. What portion have we given to the Lord?

Saint Anthony of Padua had a slightly different, though not unrelated, reading of the detail of the cooked fish. Recognizing that each of us is called to be as another Christ because we have been joined to him in Baptism, the Doctor of the Gospels said:

The “broiled fish” is the Redeemer who suffered, who was caught in the waters of the human race by the hook of death, and “broiled” at the time of his Passion; and he, too, is the honeycomb for us in today’s Resurrection. The honeycomb is in the wax, as the divinity is in the humanity. In this eating is signified that he takes them, in his body, to eternal rest, who, when they suffer trials for God’s sake, do not depart from the joy of eternal sweetness. Those who are “broiled” here, will there be satisfied with sweetness.[2]

The Lord Jesus takes in those who know him; he takes in those who keep his commandments and his word (cf. I John 2:3-5).

If we wish to “look forward in confident hope to the rejoicing of the day of resurrection,” we cannot be afraid to be “broiled” here; we cannot be afraid of “faith proved by fire.”[3] If we wish the Lord to let the light of his face shine on us and put gladness into our hearts for eternity, then, like Saint Peter, we must give the Lord the full portion of our love (cf. Psalm 4:7 and 8). What is more, we must not be afraid of raising our voices and proclaiming, “Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away” (Acts 3:19).

The proclamation of the fullness of the Gospel today is repugnant to many members of our society. Many resist – or even oppose - his teachings on marriage, the dignity of all human life, care for the poor, and even the reality of the Sacraments. Because this is becoming increasingly so, we shy away from proclaiming the truth revealed by Jesus Christ and entrusted to his Church. Because of our pride, because of our concern for how others think of us, we do not proclaim the Resurrection of the Lord and do not give him the portion he desires.

Every Sunday and holy day, we recite together the Creed, the Profession of Faith. Just a few weeks ago at Easter, we renewed our baptismal promises by answering, “I do,” to the questions posed to us about our belief, questions taken directly from the Creed, from the faith of the Church, which comes down to us through Saint Peter and the Apostles. In doing so, we confessed before God and man that we believe in the Crucified and Risen Savior and in the means of salvation offered in the Church he established on the rock of Saint Peter. But what does it mean to believe?

Our word “creed” comes from the Latin word credo, which means “I believe.” “Some suggest credo is made up of two smaller words: cor is the word for ‘heart,’ as in ‘coronary’ or ‘cordially,’ and do means ‘I give’ and is the origin of donate.”[4] To believe, then, is to make a gift of the heart to Jesus, to give him the portion he desires, to give him the gift of our love proved even by fire. In his Passion, Death, and Resurrection, the Lord Jesus made a gift of his heart to us, even allowing his side to be opened so we might enter into his heart (cf. John 19:34). Let us in return make a gift of our hearts to him so that our credo, our “I believe,” may not be spoken in vain. Let us go forth with the joy that comes from being loved by God to announce the forgiveness of sins in Christ Jesus to everyone we meet so we might all sing together the joy of Easter: Alleluia!

[1] Saint Augustine of Hippo, Sermon 229J.3
[2] Saint Anthony of Padua, Sermon on the Resurrection of the Lord, 4. In Sermons for Sundays and Festivals, Vol. IV: Sermons for Festivals and Indexes, Paul Spilsbury, trans. (Padua: Edizioni Messagero Padova, 2010), 193.
[3] Collect for the Third Sunday of Easter.
[4] Christopher Carstens, A Devotional Journey into the Mass: How Mass Can Become a Time of Grace, Nourishment, and Devotion (Manchester, New Hampshire: Sophia Institute Press, 2017), 46.

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