For the readings, please see this link: 3rd Sunday of Easter Readings PDF
In the season of Easter, we read from the Acts of the Apostles instead from one of the books of the Old Testament, and we read from the Revelation of John instead of from one of the Epistles. In this joyful season of Resurrection, it is appropriate to read from the book that is a vision of the Heavenly Banquet led by the “Lamb that was slain.” Sunday’s reading is a glimpse of the eternal hymn of praise in Heaven, where the cherubim and seraphim continually do cry, “Worthy is the lamb that was slain.”
Many times during Lent and particularly during Holy Week, we read from the second chapter of Paul’s Epistle to the Phillipians that Jesus “emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave … humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Phil. 2:6-8). The posture of obedience and humility that Jesus modelled for us in his Passion is rewarded in eternity by his Kingship, in which we will participate if we likewise humble ourselves in obedience.
When Peter is challenged by the High Priest in Sunday’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles, he replies “We must obey God rather than men.” Ordered by the Sanhedrin to stop speaking in the name of Jesus, he and the others left “rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.” Our suffering for the sake of the name — our suffering for Love — is a gift pleasing to God. He wants our whole being, not just the good times but the bad. When he told us to “pick up your cross and follow me,” he was foreshadowing the price of love. He loved us enough to make an awful day the earth shook into a day we call Good Friday, and three days later the earth shook in a different way on account of the resurrection as Death was destroyed.
We are made for eternal life, and we are offered eternal life. Eternal life is not free, however. In Acts, we see the Apostles — even before the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost — begin to comprehend what has happened. Through a number of stories like the walk to Emmaus, Jesus is revealing who he truly is. The Apostles who seemed so completely befuddled during the Passion are growing in strength and courage to take up their crosses and follow the risen Lord.
The reading from the Gospel according to St. John indicates another aspect of the price of love. Love requires action. First, we are presented with downhearted Apostles, and with a tone of frustration Peter announces he is going fishing. In doing so, Peter reminds us that we are called to action; in the Garden of Eden, Adam worked. For Love is not passive, it is active. Jesus appears after a fruitless night of fishing and tells them to put out their net yet again. And they obey him, “and were not able pull it in because of the number of fish.” In this obedient action, the Apostles recognize the Lord.
Jesus has further commands for them: “Bring some of the fish you just caught” to a fire already loaded with fish and bread. On the basis of our rational powers it would not make sense to bring more fish to a meal already cooking fish. But Peter obeys, dragging ashore a net “full of 153 large fish.” After the work, Jesus invites them to the communal meal which corresponds to the Last Supper and the Eucharist: he takes the bread, he gives it to them.
Jesus then turns to Peter, the rock on which he would build his Church against which the powers of Hell would never prevail, and he asks him three times the question. “Do you love me?” Three times Peter says yes, with a rising tone of hurt and distress. At each affirmation, Jesus gives Peter a command of action. Feed my lambs. Tend my sheep. Feed my sheep. Love, love, love. Obey, obey, obey. Action, action, action.
Finally, Jesus intimates to Peter the price of love. Obedience to God’s will is costly. To Peter, his rock, he says “when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Peter is told this to signify “by what kind of death he would glorify God.” Peter would die in the persecution under Nero by the means the Romans used to send a message: crucifixion. The price of love is the cross, and the wisdom of the cross is folly to the world. But we live for eternity, not for today. And we live for God, not for man. And we live for love, not selfishness. And we will live with him forever.