We are all called to be fishers of men!

Every year, on the Third Sunday of Easter the reading from Acts presents Peter bearing witness to the Resurrection, and, in the Gospel, the Risen Jesus himself appearing at a meal, the initiation of the crowning sacrament, the Eucharist. Peter voices the Church’s unchanging assertion: “We must obey God rather than men,” or the popular culture, or even laws that violate God’s commands.

In today’s Gospel, Peter resumes his pre-apostolic occupation of fishing, fruitless now as before—until Jesus intervenes. Saint Jerome suggests that one hundred- fifty-three represents all of the known number of species of fish: meaning that the Church’s “net” has room for the whole diverse human race, its unity-in-diversity secure in the hands of Peter and his successors. It also has been noted that possibly there were 153 known countries at the time of Jesus.

Whatever the meaning of the exact number, we do know that in today’s Gospel the one hundred fifty-three fish were caught at Jesus’ command.

The early disciples were busily heeding Jesus’ command to spread the Good News. Listening to God’s word today, perhaps we can think about what results we might have if we were to heed Jesus’ command to us. How many fish might we catch?

Have you ever considered the two places in Scripture where the curious detail of a “charcoal fire” is mentioned?

One is in today’s Gospel, where the Apostles return from fishing to find bread and fish warming on the fire.

The other is in the scene in the High Priest’s courtyard on Holy Thursday, where Peter and some guards and slaves warm themselves while Jesus is being interrogated inside. At the first fire, Peter denied knowing Jesus three times, as Jesus had predicted.

Today’s charcoal fire becomes the scene of Peter’s repentance, as three times Jesus asks him to make a profession of love. Jesus’  thrice repeated command “feed My sheep” shows that Peter is being appointed as the shepherd of the Lord’s entire flock, the head of His Church.

Jesus’ question: “Do you love me more than these?” is a pointed reminder of Peter’s pledge to lay down his life for Jesus, even if the other Apostles might weaken. He then explains just what Peter’s love and leadership will require, foretelling Peter’s death by crucifixion (“you will stretch out your hands”).

Before His own death, Jesus had warned the Apostles that they would be hated as He was hated, that they would suffer as He suffered. And, we see the beginnings of that persecution in today’s First Reading. Flogged as Jesus was, the Apostles nonetheless leave “rejoicing that they have been found worthy to suffer.”

Their joy is based on their faith that God will change their “mourning into dancing,” as we heard in today’s Psalm. By their sufferings, they know, they will be counted worthy to stand in heaven before “the Lamb that was slain,” a scene glimpsed in today’s Second Reading  and also in Revelation. We too must suffer in this life so that we can know the joy of eternal life with our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Jesus commisions Peter to reach out in love to others–especially those who seem least deserving of it, just as his triple denial of the Master made him least deserving of his Master’s love.

And now it’s Peter”s turn to say to us what Jesus said to him both by word and by example:

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you…

“If you love  only the people love you, why should you receive a blessing? Even sinners love those who love them!

“And of you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you receive a blessing? Even sinners do that!” Luke 6:27, 32–33

All are called, but few answer the call!

Simon Peter, the fisherman, is the first to be called personally by Jesus in Luke’s Gospel.

His calling is similar to Isaiah’s commissioning in our First Reading from Isaiah: Confronted with the holiness of the Lord, both Peter and Isaiah are overwhelmed by a sense of their sinfulness and inadequacy. Yet each experiences the Lord’s forgiveness and is sent to preach the good news of His mercy to the world.

In today’s Epistle Paul recognizes that no one is “fit to be called an apostle.” But by “the grace of God,” even a persecutor of the Church—as Paul once was—can be lifted up for the Lord’s service.

Today’s scene described in Isaiah is recalled in every Mass. Before reading the Gospel, the priest or deacon silently asks God to be in his mine, in his heart and cleanse his lips that he might worthily proclaim His Word.

God’s Word comes to us as it came to Peter, Paul and Isaiah — as a personal call to leave everything and follow Him, to surrender our weaknesses in order to be filled with His strength.

And then in the gospel, Jesus himself comes to Peter, James and John at their boat. They are cleaning and repairing their nets after a hard and fruitless night of fishing. The last thing that they want to do is push their heavy wooden boats back into the water, and then to have this carpenter tell them how to fish.

You may recall in Matthew’s Gospel, after the Resurrection, how Jesus even told them which side of the boat to cast their nets for another big catch. But back to today’s story. They are convinced Jesus is the Lord after their boats are overwhelmed and their nets are splitting because of the number of fish they caught. Peter first confesses his sinfulness and unworthiness and then drops everything to follow Jesus.

Simon put out into deep waters even though, as a professional fisherman, he knew it would be foolhardy to expect to catch anything. In humbling himself before the Lord’s command, he was exalted—his nets filled to overflowing.

Through Jesus, we are made worthy to receive Him in the company of angels in God’s holy Temple. On our knees like Peter, with the humility of David in today’s Psalm, we thank Him with all our hearts and join in the unending hymn that Isaiah heard around God’s altar: “Holy, holy, holy….”.

Most of us do not win medals at the Olympics or become like Isaiah, Paul or Peter. However, each of us is given gifts by God to use for the good of others. We are called to be God’s witnesses and when we can speak of God’s grace at work in ourselves we can be recognized clearly as Catholics and Christians. We are lights in the world who can share our hope with others. To allow our light to shine, we can take courage from those words of Jesus, “Do not be afraid.”

Each of our calling comes in many different forms. As faithful Christians we are to believe that every act makes a difference and in some way speaks of God.

Isaiah’s reaction to his call—“Woe is me with my unclean lips!”—Corresponds to Peter’s—“Depart from me, for I am a sinner!” And maybe ours, too!

How comforting then that Jesus, who listens to our requests, refuses to leave Peter; he tells Peter—and us—not to be afraid to leave the past for a future with him.

A future that challenges us, like Peter, to ignore the worldly wisdom that says, “Give up!” Where practical eyes see predictable failure, Jesus sees limitless potential—even in us—daring us to re-define worthiness (in ourselves and others), life’s meaning and purpose.

Luke uses a special Greek word to describe Peter’s call and ours as disciples: not “fishers of men” as in Matthew and Mark, but “catching men”. To catch people alive! Fish caught with nets or hooks are killed and eaten. Jesus directs his fishers to gather people alive. The Greek word actually signifies capturing without harming, rescuing from “the wild” for a new and better life, protected by those committed to their well-being.

We, “caught alive” for “life in all its fullness,” are sent to rescue our fellow sinners from danger, gather them from the wild, catch them alive for fullness of life.

Like Saint Paul, we are to hand on what we received, the Good News of God’s unconditional, reconciling love for all revealed in Christ crucified and risen.

How can we, in the coming weeks, in our homes, workplace, classroom, our circle of friends, “catch” someone for the fullness of life to which Jesus invites us all?

“Do not be afraid!”

“God’s twofold gift that leads to eternal life.”

The rich young man in today’s Gospel wanted to know what we all want to know—how to live today so that we may live forever in the world to come. He sought what today’s Psalm calls “wisdom of heart.”

The wisdom he seeks is not things to be performed, or behaviors to be avoided. As Jesus tells him and us, observing the commandments is essential to walking the path of salvation—but it can only get us so far.

In Jesus we encounter Wisdom, the living and effective Word of God. As He does with the rich man, He looks upon each of us with love. The look of love, the loving gaze, is a personal invitation—for us to give up everything to follow Him.

Nothing we do is concealed from His gaze, as we hear in the Epistle. Each of us will be called to render an account of our lives.

We must have the attitude of Solomon, preferring Wisdom to all else, loving Him more than even life itself. This preference of love, requires a leap of faith. As Jesus tells His disciples today, “We will be persecuted for this faith.” But we must trust in His promise—that all good things will come to us who come to him.

What are the “many possessions” that you have that are keeping you from giving yourself totally to God? What are you clinging to—material things, comfort zones, relationships? What will it take for you to live fully for Christ’s sake and the sake of the Gospel?

Let us pray for the wisdom to enter into the kingdom of God. Let each of us ask Him to “Teach us.”

God calls each of us to work to transform our world—both physically and spiritually.

Each of us, regardless of who or where we are, is called to play some role in this process of transformation.

As Cardinal Newman once said, “God has committed some work to me which he has not committed to another.

I have my mission—I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told in the next . . . .

[Therefore] if I am in sickness, my sickness may serve him.

If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve him . . . .

God does nothing in vain. He knows what he is about.”

To help us carry out our mission or role, God has given each of us a set of unique talents.

To some these talents are high profile; to others they are low profile.

To help all of us—whether our talents be high profile or low profile—God has given us two great gifts: sanctifying grace and actual grace.

John Newton, an 18th—century slave trader, refers to both of these great gifts—sanctifying grace and actual grace—in his beautiful hymn “Amazing Grace.”

Recall how one night a great storm threatened his ship and its cargo of slaves. He promised God that if they survived, he would quit the slave trade.

The ship and cargo survived, and he quit.

He not only quit, he became a minister and a composer of hymns. One of which was “Amazing Grace.” He wrote:

“Twas grace that taught my heart to fear. . .

how precious did that grace first appear the hour I first believed! . . .

‘Tis grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.

The words “how precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed’ refers to sanctifying grace, which gives us a share in God’s own divine life.

The words “’Tis grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home” refer to actual grace, which is given to us, especially, in times when we need it.

Sanctifying grace is given to us in Baptism and makes us sharers in God’s own divine life. It also makes us responsible and privileged to participate in God’s work of salvation.

And, just what do we mean by God’s work of salvation?

It’s the transformation of our world—physically and spiritually—into what God intended it to be before sin nearly destroyed it.

It means that we must work faithfully one day at a time.

It means to do whatever job we have to do—for example, raise our family—in a way in keeping with the teachings of Jesus.

It means to do that job as faithfully and as best we can in our situation.

And then we have actual grace and how it helps us to fulfill our role or mission in God’s plan of salvation.

Actual grace is God’s gift to us in times of special need—it may be a time of trial or temptation.

Or, saying it another way, its God’s gift to help us live out our lives in this world in such a way at to attain eternal life in the next!

God does not force us to accept his plan for our world and for ourselves. He gives us the freedom to accept or reject it—just as he gave the rich man in today’s Gospel this awesome freedom.

Also, we know from experience how difficult it is to live our lives, day in and day out, in full harmony with the teachings of Jesus. As peter observes in today’s Gospel, it is down right hard, if not impossible.

This is where grace comes in, especially actual grace. It helps us not only to live by the teachings of Jesus, and it also helps us to share this gift with others.

This is the good news of today’s Gospel that we share in today’s liturgy.

This is the good news that we must carry forth with us today and share with all those we meet.

 

Michael Murtha’s Essay

Knights of Columbus Scholarship

This year, eighteen students entered the essay contest funded by the Knights of Columbus Council 11293. The subject this year was ‘The Responsibilities of being a Catholic Citizen in Today’s Society.’ The winners are:

Sarah Lindsey Will attend El Centro CC – Nursing Program

Jessica Okpala Will attend Stephen F Austin University

Michael Murtha Will attend Texas A&M University

Michelle Canard Freshman @ Collin College

Karen Bless Sophomore @ University of Dallas

Cory Wirkman Junior @ University of Oklahoma – Architectural Engineering

This annual program is open to all St Jude students going into their Freshman year or currently attending a college or university!

Michael Murtha’s Essay

There is a scene from one of my favorite movies that has stuck with me since the first time I saw it in 6th grade. Jesus, in The Passion of the Christ, is being beaten as He carries His cross to Golgotha when He falls for the second time. In the midst of Jesus lying on the ground, a fight breaks out amongst the Roman soldiers and bystanders, and Jesus’ mother, Mary, is able to get to Him. As she wipes her son’s face and holds Him to her, Jesus begins to stand and pick up His cross as He looks at His mother and says, “See Mother? I make all things new.” Since elementary school, that scene has remained engraved in my brain and I have always wondered, “why?” What is so special about that scene to me? Then it hit me. This simple act, of standing up and picking up a cross, is the most loving thing anyone has ever done for me. Jesus is being beaten to death; He has already been spit upon, mocked, and scourged, and yet He picks up His cross and says willingly, “I make all things new.” That is the ultimate love; that is what gave men life; and that is what we as Catholics are meant to do in this society: pick up our cross.

In a society where abortions are performed every day, gay marriage is close to being legalized, and the Catholic Church is constantly under misguided attack from the media, a Catholic must pick up their cross and shine their light in an increasingly dark world. So this year, that is exactly what my friends and I did: we picked up our crosses. Starting at St. Jude parish, my friends and I carried 10-foot wooden crosses all the way to Our Lady of Angels next to Highway 121. As we walked down the highway and across busy intersections, we received shouts of joy and honks of praise, and we were even stopped to have our pictures taken. But this was not about getting people’s attention for us. It was about showing people that there is still hope for this world, and that even in this time period where people are constantly rushing, there is still time to pick up one’s cross. We reminded those that saw us of Jesus’ love, and we helped them see that although the constant rush of their daily lives may seem like it blocks out God’s light, He is always there.

Carrying your cross doesn’t always have to be literal though. This statement simply means getting through everyday life, and showing God’s light as you do it. Just as Jesus had to do it when He was being scourged, we typically must carry our cross in the midst of turmoil as well. My sophomore year, I was run over by a car and had to be taken by helicopter to Parkland Trauma Center. As I lay on a gurney in agony surrounded by a team of frantically busy trauma doctors, I had no idea what was going on around me. Months later I found out that my uncle, a man who tends not to pray, prayed that morning in the waiting room as I was rushed into emergency surgery. And even after that, the night before I had to go meet my neurosurgeon to see if I could ever play football again because of the accident, twenty of my friends filled the chapel at St. Jude, praying that I would be able to play, even though some of them had never gone to church. Carrying your cross can be as easy as keeping a smile on your face in the midst of hard times, or as hard as being scourged for the sins of humanity. Either way, the goal of a Catholic in today’s society is simple: shine God’s light in this dark world and know that no matter how many times you fall, you must always pick that cross back up.

Today’s society is full of immoral acts. Our world thrives on sin. But in the midst of the chaos, the Catholic Church stands strong and reveals the true path for God’s people. The path that is revealed may not be an easy one. There are temptations, persecutions, and trials that will come along, but that is what makes picking up your cross so beautiful. In the middle of all the lust, greed, gluttony, denial, and sorrow, we as Catholics have been given a beautiful gift. We, just as Jesus did, get to pick up our cross and carry it as we are beaten by this society we live in today.  And we know that no matter how many times we fall, we will one day be in paradise, our bodies and souls healed, as Jesus looks at us and says once again, “See child? I make all things new.”

“I am the Bread of Life”

Our First Reading talks about the sumptuous banquet that Wisdom offers its devotees. Suggesting that great blessings will coincide with the coming of the Messiah. But we see it as a foreshadowing of the Eucharist, and the heavenly banquet, which the Eucharist anticipates.

This week’s Gospel reading gets right to the heart of its Eucharistic message: Jesus says, “The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.  Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His Blood you will not have life within you.”

What does the Lord promise us in today’s Gospel? He promised us food, the effects of which will not be passing, but endure forever. The Food He gives is himself: He is the living and life-giving Food, which came down from heaven. He promised to give His Flesh for the life of the world, and to offer His Flesh to be our Food. When the Jews were scandalized at the idea of His giving His Flesh to be eaten, He did not say to them: “Oh, you misunderstood Me.” On the contrary, He reaffirmed the very thing, which had scandalized them, and asserted repeatedly that His Flesh was meat indeed and His Blood drink indeed, and only those who eat His Flesh and drink His Blood will have eternal life.

At the same time, He signifies that this Flesh that He gives to be our Food is His glorified Body. When we choose not to receive the Eucharist, we would do well to remember that when many of His disciples were still offended at the idea of His Flesh to eat, and refused to believe His words, our Lord preferred to let them go, rather than retract or explain away one syllable of the words that He had spoken. It is undeniably true that our Lord promised to give His Body, His Flesh and Blood, to be the Food for us, His servants. Our Lord gave the promise at the time of Passover, kept during His public life, and He fulfilled it later when, at the Last Supper, He instituted the most holy Sacrament of the Altar.

Our Lord is entirely present in the most holy Sacrament, under the form of bread, for He says: “I am the living bread”; “he that eats Me”, and therefore he who eats His Flesh, eats Him. And, “I abide in him”, “the flesh profits nothing. It is the spirit that quickens.” His Flesh, therefore, is penetrated by the Spirit, and united to His soul and divinity.

As far as “Communion under one kind.” It is clear from our Lord’s words; “He that eats this bread (My body under the form of bread) will live forever”, that he who receives Holy Communion under one kind does not receive less than he who receives under both kinds.

The necessity of Communion [the fourth commandment of the Church]. Our Lord makes the attainment of eternal life dependent on the receiving His Body and Blood. “Unless you eat the Flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His Blood, you shall not have life in you.”—“He that eats My Flesh and drinks My Blood shall live forever.” Since it is the duty of every one of us to try to save our souls, and Holy Communion is necessary, it is our duty to receive Holy Communion, as soon as one is sufficiently formed and enlightened to decide whether or not he desires to partake of this heavenly food. The Church, therefore is fulfilling our Lord’s command, and providing for the salvation of souls, when she commands all the faithful to receive Holy Communion, and to receive it often.

The effects of Holy Communion are rich in blessings. He who receives the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ worthily has every lasting life, and will be raised up by Him on the last day. “He abides in Me, and I in Him. He will live in Me!: says the Lord. The Body of Christ is a living bread, which gives us supernatural and everlasting life, and is a pledge that our bodies will have a glorious resurrection. Even after the sacred species disappear, there is a nourishing and life giving strength left in our souls, and we stay connected to the Body of the Redeemer, and remain one with Him.

The Blessed Sacrament is the backbone of our faith. He who does not believe in the real presence of our Lord in the Holy Eucharist has no part in him, because he has no firm belief in the Divinity of Christ. The true believer does not ask, as did the Jews: “How can this be?” but believes the words of Christ unconditionally, because we know that Christ is the Son of God, and that with God all things are possible.

Our Lord’s prophecy. In His discourse on the Blessed Sacrament, Jesus, distinctly foretold the atoning Sacrifice of His death, telling those present that He would give His Flesh for the life of the world. He told with equal clearness His Ascension, when He said that the Son of Man (the Incarnate Son of God who came down from heaven) would (as the Son of Man, with His human nature) return to where He was before His Incarnation.

These words of our Blessed Lord ought to move each of us to prepare ourselves as we did for our First Holy Communion to receive this Divine Food. And, each time we enter a church where the Blessed Sacrament is preserved, excite in our hearts an act of firm and lively faith in the Real Presence of our Lord Jesus Christ!