On this 3rd Sunday of Easter we have reason to be filled with great joy and hope. For Christ is risen from the dead! Be His death He conquered death! And to those in the grave He granted life! But the 3rd Sunday of Easter is also a time of great challenge for our parish. This morning we celebrated the Funeral Mass of one of the young men of our parish who died suddenly and tragically this past week. And just 4 weeks ago we celebrated the Funeral Mass of another young man of our parish who also died tragically just before Easter. I apologize to the family and friends of others who have recently died that I have not mentioned because every life, without exception, is sacred and precious. But the youth and circumstances associated with the deaths of these young men can shake our faith. And although we know that God is infinitely merciful, our human nature causes us to cry out, “Lord, Where are you? Why have you abandoned us?”
Today’s Gospel passage shows us how to go on with our lives in times of such great uncertainty. First, let’s set the stage. Imagine how Peter and the disciples must have felt on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias where we find them in today’s Gospel. A few weeks earlier the disciples had been devastated by Jesus’ passion and death on the cross. Jesus, the one whom they had hoped would be the Messiah and savior. On the evening of the first day of the week after His death, Jesus appeared to the disciples with the exception of Thomas. And then He disappeared. A week later Jesus appeared to the disciples, this time Thomas present, but again he disappeared. On the Sea of Tiberias we can almost hear Peter cry out: “Lord! Where are you? Why have you abandoned us? I’m a fisherman. I know how to fist. But I don’t know how to follow you. I’m going back to fishing.” And Peter leads the disciples into the boat and out onto the sea.
With that as the backdrop, I think this passage offers three suggestions for going on with our lives when the Lord seems to have abandoned us. First, find a beloved disciple. The beloved disciple is someone who is able to recognize Jesus from a distance when our pain and suffering stands in the way. Someone who is able to say, “Look, it is the Lord!” And where do we find the beloved disciple? In the boat…the boat being symbolic of the Church or the Body of Christ. The beloved disciple might be the priest in the confessional. Or the beloved disciple might be a fellow parishioner who we can pray with and who can pray for us.
A second way of dealing with our feelings of abandonment is to partake of the Eucharist or in the words of Jesus, “Bring some of the fish you just caught. Come have breakfast.” At the Offertory we bring up bread and wine that will be changed into the body and blood of Jesus. But we also offer up all of the struggles and burdens of our lives in union with Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. And when we receive the Eucharist we are comforted and strengthened by this food from heaven to face the struggles and the difficulties in our lives.
Finally, when it seems that the Lord has deserted us, accept the Lord’s personal invitation to come and follow Him. No matter who we are, Jesus invites us…just as He invited Peter…to pick up our crosses and to follow Him. And if we continue to follow Him, He will remain in our presence.
On this 3rd Sunday of Easter we might be confronted with great challenges. But by seeking out the beloved disciple among us, partaking of Jesus’ body and blood in the Eucharist, and taking up our cross and following Jesus, we make it known to the world tht despite these challenges we are filled with great hope and confidence that the Lord has not abandoned us. Christ indeed is risen from the dead! By His death He conquered death! And to those in the grave…including the young men from our parish… He granted life!