Third Sunday of Easter
Exchange Youth for Tomorrow Until theTorch of Learning Has Been Passed On
First Reading (Acts 5:27-32, 40-41): The apostles did not fear persecution and preached for the Lord
Second Reading (Rev 5:11-14): The Lamb that was slaughtered is worthy of praise
Gospel (John 21:1-19): Jesus appeared at the edge of the sea
-“To test jade requires burning it for three whole days; to verify good wood requires waiting for seven long years.” (1)
-“Behead me with the sharp knife quickly. Let me not be ashamed of my young head.” (2)
“Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep. Very truly, I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.’ After this he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ ” (Jn 21: 15, 18-19)
Jesus lived on this earth for only thirty-three years. The first thirty years were a 'hidden' life of which we know very little. The last three years were Jesus' 'Public life' during which time he proclaimed the 'good news' by his words and actions. He went throughout the country to spread the good news and establish the kingdom of heaven. They were a bright and wonderful three years.
During those last three years of his public life we hear Jesus' wise words that touched peoples' lives and see the miracles he performed out of compassion for people; we can imbibe the presence of Jesus. This is sometimes called the 'Jesus Event,' which created such a sensation throughout the cities. We see the simple people going around excitedly telling others what they have seen and heard about Jesus. At that time, “almost the entire city” gathered around Jesus, “and were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” (ref Mk 1: 21- 34)
It is almost as if we can see the fascination people had for 'this phenomenon' that was Jesus two thousand years ago. Their admiration extended to his mother as well: “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!” (Lk 11: 27)
However, like so many exciting events, it came quickly and disappeared quickly. Those who seemed to have loved Jesus the most, or rather one might say were most excited about him, were the quickest to be disappointed and angry. The chanting of the 'Hosannas' on Palm Sunday could still be heard when in less than six days, on Good Friday they were replaced by the shouted curses, 'Crucify him.' The people preferred to release the murderer Barabbas rather than to set Jesus free. Is there anything on earth that fills us more with a sense of alarm and helplessness than human beings' changeable moods, the ever-changing affairs of life, disaster and blessing, and the vagaries and fickleness of the human heart?
Even Peter, head of the apostles, who was so zealous and loved Jesus so passionately, who had sworn he would follow Jesus unto death (Mt 26:35), in the end was so weak and fearful that he denied and betrayed Jesus with an oath, “I do not know the man.”
There are two lines in Bai Ju Yi's poem 'Frank Talk', “To test jade requires burning it for three whole days, To verify good wood requires waiting for seven long years.” (1) That is, it takes three days of burning to tell the difference between fire-resistant jade and breakable rock. It takes seven years of putting the wood in a wet place before the difference between a superior and inferior quality of tree bark emerges. To test one's faith will it not take more than three days, perhaps even seven years?
After those exhilarating days, the apostles had to face a whole lifetime of tests to their faith - the oppression of the Jews, indifference of the Gentiles, the enmity of the Romans, even the many frequent internal and external crises in the Church.
In the prime of life, one can pluck up courage and bear many pressures and criticisms coming from different directions. In his youth, Wang Jing Wei said with high spirits, “Behead me with a sharp knife quickly. Let me not be ashamed of my young head. (2) But as a person grows older, it is almost impossible to recover the courage one showed when young. Some people even become traitors like Wang Jing Wei. The zeal they once had burns off into smoke and ashes. Time is the furnace that tests a person's moral character.
Peter had denied that he knew the Lord whom he intended to follow unto death., but later his tears washed away his shame. The decisive factors, however, were Jesus' careful training and Peter's own sincere response. I think the following could have been the lifelong dialogue between Peter and Jesus:
“You hurt me more than anyone else, because you are my disciple and my friend, the one I loved the most and chose especially. So will you love me more than the others?”
“Lord, I do not know if I love you more than the others, nor if I can love you more than others do. But I hope you know: I love you! I do not know for how long I can love you, but today and forever, with your help I will try my best to say always, I love you and will love you until the end of time.”
“Thank you, Simon! I believe you have already experienced the truth that ‘the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.’ However, I still want to hear for myself this pledge of your love for me. But I hope you also realize that although when you were young you had control over yourself, when you are old you may not have the same ability. But if you put your trust in me, rely on me and invite me into your life, I will gradually be united with you and become your strength.”
“Go. Go to the lands where I want you to go, to complete the mission I have given you. When the fire in your life has burned out, your life will come to an end. I want to see that during your life you have passed on what you learned. One day your life's resources will be exhausted, but the fire that I started within you will be passed on forever.”