April 14, 2013
EASTER III (C)
Follow me. – John 21:19
In themselves, good resolutions & intentions in the area of faith will not do us much good. We have to actually follow Jesus if we want to grow spiritually.
A young man speaking to his girlfriend’s father said, “Sir, there is something important I’d like to ask you…. I was wondering whether… er, uh, that is if you would be willing to, er ….” The father grabbed the young man’s hand & shook it vigorously. “Of course, my boy, you have my permission. My girl’s happiness is all that matters to me. The fellow looked puzzled. “Permission?” he asked. “You want to marry my daughter, right?” said the father. “Oh no, nothing like that,” replied the young man, “I need $68 or the finance company will repossess my car. I was wondering if you could lend me the money.” The father snapped back, “Certainly not, I hardly know you!”
Following Jesus means more than “Jesus, I hardly know you.” We need to know Him in a way that makes all the difference in the way we travel life’s journey. Jesus is the model for the kind of life God would like us to live, & what we see in Him is the unconditional giving of Himself to the Father & to other people.
When we buy a do-it-yourself kit, the manufacturer provides us with two important things we need in order to put it together: a picture of the thing fully assembled so we can have an idea of what it should look like; & instructions to explain how it all fits together, piece by piece. This is exactly what God has given us in Jesus.
The crucifixion & resurrection of Jesus are saving events of cosmic proportions that free us from the power that sin & evil have over our life. Our selfishness, our fears, our insecurities can cause us to do things that God does not will us to do. But we cannot break the hold that these things have on us on our own. Call it the devil or the forces of evil, but by whatever name, we must take it seriously. It exists in our life & in the world, & we cannot break its destructive grip with our own resources alone. It is a profound mystery that defies rational explanation, but what happened on the cross in the death & resurrection of Jesus is that God changed the course of history. Not only that, it frees us from the terrible power of sin & evil that would destroy us. Jesus is not only our model – He is also our savior who makes all things possible.
God in His grace has given us the freedom to accept or reject this tremendous gift. It is for us to say “Yes!” & if we hesitate it is probably because we may have to go somewhere we dislike or would not have chosen. In today’s Gospel, Jesus asks Peter three times “Do you love me?” When the dialogue ends, He says to Peter quite simply, “Follow me.”
Doing that will involve at least this much: tending & feeding & caring for each other. This goes beyond helping those who are economically or educationally or physically handicapped. It also means sharing spiritual values & a spiritual vision.
We see about us today in the so-called “developed” world a spiritual poverty more frightening than pictures of starving children in Africa. It is more frightening because it is less obvious to the casual observer. Here, child neglect all too often means letting children fend for themselves & try to formulate their own sense of values in the market place of competing ideas where error is not tolerated. The result is a great deal of confusion & anxiety about the felt void in many people’s lives, including many raised in nominally Christian households. The only thing that can fill that void is a revealed faith, not some self-created value system. Pablum will not do. It cannot withstand the trials of life.
For Simon Peter, for Andrew, James & John, for me & for you, there comes a moment when God calls us to real life, not a synthetic substitute. Dare we be casual about it? AMEN!