Sunday Sermon for May 1, 2022, the Third Sunday of Easter, Year C
Readings: Act 5:27-32, 40b-41; Rev 5:11-14; Jn 21:1-19
In the Gospel reading today, Jesus asks Peter if he loves our Lord more than the others. Peter does not answer this directly; rather, he simply tells our Lord that he loves Him. The second time Jesus changes the question to ask if Peter loves Him. Peter answers that he does love the Lord. Jesus asks a third time about Peter’s love. Peter is hurt by this, but maybe our Lord was able to see deeper into Peter than Peter was able to see into himself.
We know our Lord was asking Peter if he loved Jesus the way Jesus loves him. Peter responded with a lesser kind of love. On the third time around, Jesus lowered the level of love He was asking of Peter to the same level Peter had been answering, but then told Peter the day would come when he would be able to love our Lord in the same way our Lord loves him.
This is important for us because our Lord asks us the same question. Look at the crucifix and consider the Holy Eucharist, then when our Lord asks if we love Him with the same level of love with which He loves us, what will our response be? I suspect most of us would answer in a manner similar to that of Peter, that is, we love to a lesser degree. Now, the most important question: do you want to love our Lord with the same kind of selfless love with which He loves us?
When we look at the first reading, we hear that many angels, the living creatures, and the elders proclaim Jesus, the Lamb of God, to be worthy to receive power and riches, wisdom, strength, honor, glory, and blessing. It is true that the angels glorify Him because He is God and because of His charity and humility. It is also true that the Saints glorify Him for these same reasons, but also in gratitude for what He has done for them. However, the ultimate reason for the glory and honor that is given is the love they have for our Lord.
The next thing St. John tells us is that every creature, in Heaven, on earth, even those under the earth, indeed, everything in the universe, gives blessing, glory, honor, and might to our Heavenly Father and to the Lamb. They not only glorify Him for a moment; St. John says this is forever. This means even the souls in hell, and the demons, too, will glorify the Lord for eternity. They, of course, do not glorify the Lord because they love Him. Instead, they glorify God because He is just. Mind you, the demons and the souls in hell do not want to glorify God, but they are required to do so because they must acknowledge that they are in their place because of the justice of God.
So, the choice is ours. We can strive to love God with our whole heart, soul, and strength, in which case we will rejoice in His mercy. Or, we can live selfish lives, in which case we will know the justice of God and glorify Him accordingly. Those who love God also acknowledge His justice, and they glorify Him for this; but the love and mercy of God is foremost in their minds and wills.
If we want to love God but are unsure of how much we actually love Him, there is a way to tell that is found in the first reading. In this reading we hear about the Apostles being brought before the Sanhedrin where they are accused of a variety of things centered around their preaching and teaching about Jesus. At the end of the reading, we are told the Apostles rejoiced that they had been found worthy to suffer on behalf of the Name of Jesus. The arrest, the threats, and the way the Apostles were treated were all unjust. The way Jesus was treated was the worst case of injustice in history. What do we do when we are treated unjustly?
The Apostles, who only a few weeks earlier, were terrified to be known as our Lord’s disciples, are now rejoicing to be found worthy to suffer for the sake of His Name. If we love the Lord the way He loves us, we will be able to accept sufferings, injustices, and other problems with a sense of peace and joy. Imagine, being able to rejoice in your sufferings! This can only happen when our love is purified enough that we can unite our sufferings with those of the Lord for the conversion and salvation of souls. When we know the mercy and love of our Lord, then we will desire that for others. The love of God and the love of souls will be our greatest joy.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.