On the Third Sunday of Easter, our celebration of the Lord’s resurrection continues as we “cry out with joy to God, sing to the glory of his name, and render him glorious praise” (Cf. Entrance Antiphon for Mass).
The Gospel of John relates the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after being raised from the dead – this time as they were fishing in the Sea of Tiberias. After a miraculous catch of fish under Jesus’ direction and a breakfast of bread and fish prepared by Jesus, the original recognition of the beloved disciple (“It is the Lord.”) is confirmed in the hearts and minds of all; they all realized that it was indeed the Lord who was guiding them and caring for them. Down through the centuries, disciples have continued to appreciate the ways the Risen Christ is present to them, guiding their lives and feeding them with the bread of life that is his body and blood in the Eucharist.
The evangelist also gives us the privilege of listening to the conversation after breakfast between Jesus and Peter. Three times Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” Three times Peter affirms his love for Jesus. Peter’s profession of love for Jesus overcomes his earlier three-fold denial of the Lord. After each profession of his love for Jesus, the Lord commands him to care for his (Jesus’) flock. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, shares the responsibility of loving and caring for his own with Peter and his successors. Like the Lord he loves, Peter will faithfully and courageously witness to the point of giving his life in martyrdom, and, in dying, he will glorify God.
Jesus’ question, “Do you love me?” is addressed to all of us. Just as Jesus questions Peter numerous times, I believe that Jesus asks us the question numerous times in our lives. In professing our love for Jesus, we appreciate the ways that our love of the Lord finds expression in the way we live and the ways we respond to those who need our care and loving attention.
Looking at the other scripture passages proclaimed today, we note that love for our Lord also finds its expression in the energy and willingness to witness to our Lord and spread the good news to others, like the apostles in today’s first reading. Facing opposition, they stood firm: “We must obey God rather than men.” As they received and relied on the Holy Spirit to witness alongside them, so we rely on the Spirit to guide and strengthen our witness.
Love for our Lord will also lead us to join our prayers to the many voices in heaven that we hear about in today’s second reading. A triumphant hymn of praise is offered in God’s heavenly throne room. All in heaven and on earth are meant to participate in the praise of God who has brought about our salvation through the death and resurrection of his Son: “Worthy is the lamb that was slain to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor and glory and blessing.”
Today, we pray that we will be more attentive to the ways the risen Christ is present in the events of our daily lives. May we appreciate the way Jesus’ question to us, “Do you love me?” is a call to trust his love for us and to share that love with those around us. May the love we feel and the love we give lead us to join in the heavenly praise of “the one who sits on the throng and to the Lamb… forever and ever.”