HOMILY FOR THE 3RD SUNDAY OF EASTER YEAR C
THEME: DO YOU LOVE JESUS
BY: Rev Fr Stephen ‘Dayo Osinkoya
HOMILY FOR SUNDAY MAY 1 2022
Acts 5: 27-32. 40b-41
Today the liturgy presents us with the central question of every Christian life, “Do you love Jesus?”
Today’s Gospel reading contains a wonderful resurrection scene at the conclusion of the Gospel of John. The disciples had returned to fishing. Perhaps they had given up on Jesus. In this passage we find Peter chasing his former vocation as a fisherman (John 21:3). But that is not what Jesus wanted him to be. Jesus had already told him he wanted him to become fisher of men. Jesus wants to turn him into a shepherd (John 21:15-17). Jesus wants Peter to follow him, to become a shepherd like himself, which means dying for the good of the sheep, just as Jesus did.
But let me quickly mention here that we should note that their endeavour was fruitless because fishing was not what Jesus was calling them to. He was calling them to something greater. They didn’t realize this, so they went back to their former ways and they failed. If the Lord calls us to a task and we feel what the Lord is calling us to is too demanding, and we turn away from it, to do what pleases us, we can be sure to find no success wherever we may go, whatever we may do.
After Christ’s intervention in their endeavour, they became successful. Likewise we too, when we abandon or try to ignore what Christ is calling us to, then we are set for failure. For us to be successful in any endeavour, it has to be what the Lord wills for us. We have to bring Christ into the picture if we desire any success.
The last part of today’s gospel presents us with a very touching scene, an encounter between Jesus and Peter. We find Jesus asking Peter three times “Peter do you love me?” Jesus asking peter this question is significant. It is an opportunity for peter to make amendment for his initial denial of Jesus during the Lord’s passion. The charcoal fire now serves as a witness for Peter’s profession of love, recalling the previous charcoal fire at the hour of Christ’s passion where Peter denied the Lord.
Almost everyone is familiar with the reality that there are several words in Greek for ‘love.’ But fewer may be aware that in this passage, Jesus and Peter, 2 out of 3 times, are using different words for ‘love.’ Twice, Jesus asked Peter “… do you love (Agapas) me?” To which Peter responded “Yes Lord; you know that I love (Philo) you.” But on the third occasion, Jesus asked Peter “… do you love (Philei) me?”
When Jesus asked Peter “Agapas me?” he was asking him if he loved him in such a way that he would sacrifice himself to demonstrate this love. But Peter used another word for love, philo to tell Jesus that he only loves him as a friend. Of course Peter was being sincere with himself, remembering that he already failed when he had the opportunity to show his Agape kind of love for Jesus. Peter’s threefold denial is balanced by his threefold profession of love. With this, he is fully reconciled with the Lord, and the mantle of leadership was handed to him as the chief shepherd of Christ’s flock. This passage shows Jesus restoring and commissioning Peter to sacrificial leadership in the church.
Beloved in Christ, just as the lamb and the sheep were entrusted to Peter, so is the Lord entrusting many others around us to our care as their Shepherd. These others are depending on us. The world around us is looking to us. We have a mission to complete with our lives. We are members of the Body of Christ. We need to fulfil our function within the Body for the good of the world. We must proclaim Jesus Christ with our lives.
In the first reading, a later event in the life of Peter, we see Peter who had once led the other apostles back to fishing, now leading them as the true Vicar of Christ, willing to give up their lives for the sake of Christ’s name. They could no longer just simply stay in the upper room relishing the joy of knowing that Christ is truly risen. Their encounter with him by the lakeside made them understand that they could no longer go back to their fishing. Because, Jesus asking Peter if he loves him was like saying to Peter, “If you love me then why are you not doing the work I entrusted to you? Why do you want to turn away from being fisher of men and returning to you old occupation, fishing? Why are you leading astray these sheep I entrusted to your care by taking them fishing?
We see find in Acts 5:41 that the Apostles were full of joy because they had an opportunity to share in Christ’s suffering. How many of us who claim to love Jesus are willing to share in his suffering?
My dear friends what is needed here is our “yes” to the love of Jesus and this must be our response to His love because we are loved people. He loves us. We can respond to His love by loving Him too, but in what way? It is by loving others. Each time Jesus appeared to his apostles after his resurrection, they couldn’t recognize him at once. Why? Because the risen Christ does not look the way he used to look. With his body now glorified, he now takes on many forms, but with faith they are sure it is he. So also Jesus appears to us every day. If we don’t recognize him, it is because he now has many faces – our neighbours, our friends, as well as our enemies. He is present in the poor, the exploited, the handicapped, the weak, the orphan, the widow…
Beloved in Christ, I am hoping that loving all these people because God loves us would become our guiding principle as Christian.
*Rev Fr Stephen ‘Dayo Osinkoya*