Third Sunday of Easter
First Reading: Acts of the Apostles 5:27-32, 40-41
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 30:2, 4-6, 11-13
Second Reading: Revelation 5:9-11-14
Gospel: According to St. John 21:1-19
“Follow Me.” Are there any words more frightening? The fact that Jesus prefaces this invitation by telling Peter that someone will lead him “where he does not want to go” makes the offer that much more disturbing.
It is an easy thing to be an admirer of Jesus. There is no cost in saying that you think that Jesus said some really good things and you find his stoicism in the face of death to be heroic. This lays no burden upon the admirer.
Our Faith is unique in that it is not ultimately about adherence to a sacred text or to a list of rules. It is about a relationship with the Incarnate Son of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Logos, Jesus the Christ. This relationship like all others, yet more so than any other, is based upon trust. Do we trust Jesus enough to follow Him?
The world tells us to be admirers of Jesus and not followers. Be religious, but not too religious. In the eyes of the worldly, the designation “religious fanatic” is a not-too-subtle code for “closed-minded bigot.” We live in a country and culture that puts a very high premium on the privatization of religion – we can be religious as long as it doesn’t interfere with our public lives and our interactions with others.
One of the great American fears is that such fanatics will take over, and I can understand the concerns that so many people have. I can’t even imagine a country where people put into practice the belief that we should love God above all things and love our neighbors as ourselves. The world would definitely come crumbling down for those whose power, pleasure, honor, and wealth depend upon what St. Augustine in The City of God called libido dominandi or “the lust to dominate.” A world where, as Catholic Worker co-founder Peter Maurin said, “it is easier for people to be good” is not a world for those who love themselves above all things and use their neighbor for themselves.
The answering of the call to put our total trust in Jesus and follow Him unconditionally is something from which we almost instinctively shy away. Those who do try to wholeheartedly live the Gospel are taking a leap of faith that would make Søren Kierkegaard proud. For those who do go “all in” for Jesus it is hard to imagine that they made the decision blindly, without knowing well the story of Jesus and His followers, and in particular the story of St. Peter whose call led him to Rome and to crucifixion under Nero.
Peter could never have known that he – not only metaphorically, but literally – would be led to a cross, but it would not have surprised him. Why would the world treat him any better than it treated his Master? If we are to trust Jesus as Peter did, then we also must remember that to bind ourselves to the Cross of Christ might ultimately entail being literally bound to a cross of our own.