He stood on the shore - Third Sunday of Easter (C)

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > He stood on the shore - Third Sunday of Easter (C)

Today we have read from the final chapter of St John’s Gospel. It is the last incident he records and it is a story full of so many significant meanings.

The disciples are back in Galilee, still stunned by all that had happened, and unsure of their future. Peter says, “I am going fishing”. He returns to his old trade, to familiar ways.

The events that follow are reminiscent of his encounter with Jesus of Nazareth some three years before. Then he had been fishing all night and caught nothing. Then a stranger asks him to lower his net once more. There is a miraculous draft of fish. His first meeting with Jesus is repeated, but now with the risen Lord.

There was some bread and fish to eat by the lakeside. Just as the Lord had wondrously provided bread and fish for the vast crowds who had gathered to listen to him.

The deeply personal conversation when Jesus draws Peter aside take him back to the painful time when he denied his Lord three times. But now the risen Lord affirms him and confirms him as the one to carry out his mission. He also tells him of his final destiny – that he will give his life for his Master.

And his final words to Peter are the first words to Peter – “follow me”. Follow me now as the risen Lord, as you had followed me as Jesus of Nazareth.

This story of the meeting of Jesus with a group of his disciples by the Sea of Galilee has meanings for us.

We have been disciples of Jesus, many of us all our lives. We have been through many moments in that journey. There have been joys and sorrows. There have been times when we have felt the Lord close by us, and other times when we have felt him being far away. We have had times when we have walked closely with him and other times when we have wandered away from him.

Over the years, over our lifetime, we have walked a journey of faith.

This story firstly tells us that the Lord is there, standing not far away and observing us. He engages with us, asking how things are going: “Have your caught anything friends?” It is as though the Lord says: “how are you going?” He is interested, interested in our lives.

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On Friday night our time Pope Francis promulgated his Apostolic Exhortation on the family. It was the fruit of two synods held on consecutive years.

He entitled his document “the Joy of Love”. Contained in this rather lengthy document is a reflection on the nature of love. The reflection is based on that well known passage from the First Letter to the Corinthians: “love is always patient and kind, never jealous …” It is a passage often chosen by couples for their wedding ceremony. In his reflection the Pope speaks in very real terms about the nature of human love as realised in the family.

In the document the Pope confirms traditional Catholic teaching about marriage and family. He affirms that marriage is between a man and a woman. He says, “As for proposals to place unions between homosexual persons on the same level as marriage, there is absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family”. (AL 251)

He firmly opposes gender ideology saying, “Yet another challenge is posed by the various forms of an ideology of gender that denies the difference and reciprocity in nature of a man and a woman and envisages a society without sexual differences, thereby eliminating the anthropological basis of the family”. (AL 56)

While expressing traditional Catholic teaching in an unequivocal way, he is also every aware of the struggles that families encounter. He speaks of “wounded families” and he says that he wants the Church to accompany people in their difficulties. He says, “I also encourage the Church’s pastors to listen to them with sensitivity and serenity, with a sincere desire to understand their plight and their point of view, in order to help them live better lives and to recognise their proper place in the Church”. (AL 312)

He says that he wants those who are divorced and remarried to feel part of the Church.

◊◊◊

As in the Gospel today Pope Francis wants the Church to be there with people. He speaks compassionately of the complexities of life and decisions people feel that they have to make. He does not want simplistic answers or the imposition of strict dogmatic stances. He wants the Church to walk with people, not backing away from its teaching, but entering into a dialogue based in genuine love and mercy.

The risen Lord stood on the shore observing his disciples and their failure that night to catch any fish. He invited them to join him for breakfast and spoke in a compassionate and forgiving way to Peter. Thus, does the Church watch over the lives of people. The Church offers to provide for them what it can. The Church approaches those whose lives are broken with a compassionate and understanding heart.

This is what Pope Francis is saying in his Apostolic Exhortation on the family, appropriately called, “the Joy of Love”. 

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Saturday, 9 April 2016