Immersed in Christ: May 2, 2020
Saturday, Week Three of Easter
The Responsorial (Psalm 116) , asks: “How shall I make a return to the Lord for all the good he has done for me?” The answer is “Get up!”
Acts 9: 31-42 shows us Peter healing a bedridden man and raising a woman who had died. His command to both was the same: anastathi, “Rise!” “Get up!” 1 The point is, they didn’t know they were healed until they did. And if we want to experience Christ giving us new life, the way to do it is to “get up” and go: do something, live the life of grace, spread the Good News, act. No one ever rose from the dead by staying inert in a coffin. “How shall I make a return to the Lord for all the good he has done for me?” Yesterday’s Responsorial gave the answer: “Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.” Commit yourself to mission.
John 6: 60-69 parallels the “confession of faith” that in Matthew 16:16 got Peter named pope. In Matthew Peter’s reply of faith in Jesus precedes the announcement that Jesus is going to be a savior who wins by losing, triumphing through crucifixion. Peter finds this too shocking to accept, just as Christians today find the similar concept of nonviolence — accepting to be killed rather than to kill — too shocking to accept. Peter’s confession of faith in Jesus as Messiah turns immediately into rejection of the kind of Messiah Jesus is going to be. “No! God forbid!”
In John what shocks people is Eucharist: “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Even “many of his disciples said, ‘This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?’” And “many turned back and no longer went about with him.” But this time Peter came through. When Jesus “asked the Twelve, ‘Do you also wish to go away?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.’”
In John it is in the context of Eucharist that Jesus describes Peter’s special role in the Church. After the Resurrection Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him. This was probably to give him a chance, without making a point of it, to make up for his three denials. And each time. when Peter says he does, Jesus answers: “Feed my sheep.”
He also predicts that Peter will embrace the fate he objected so much to Jesus embracing. The Bread of life is the fruit of death. Like Jesus, to “feed the flock” Peter will pay with his blood.
For those charged with pastoral ministry, this is the “first and greatest commandment.” In order to “love the Lord your God with all your heart... and your neighbor as yourself,” Jesus tells them, “Feed my sheep.” Woe to those who deny the Eucharist to anyone without certain and serious cause. 2
When Peter objected to the sacrificial core of the Eucharistic Prayer: “Lord! This must never happen to you!” Jesus flayed him: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me!” What will he say to those who in the Rite of Communion refuse to “feed his sheep”?
Initiative: Get up and give whatever it takes to “feed the sheep.”
1 Several saints were named Anastasius or Anastasia, for “Risen” with Christ. 2 Matthew 24:40; John 21: 1-19