WHAT MATTERS TO THE ONE WHO LOVES
Catholic Homily/Sunday Reflection
3rd Sunday of Easter (C)
April 18, 2010
The Risen Lord was not one who would do the rounds of the conference circuit giving talks and rousing testimonies about what had befallen him and the ultimate reward that had been given him from above. Surely, after a harrowing and ignominious death on the cross, after all the humiliation and the degradation, after all the denials and the disarray among the ranks of his followers that ensued after his death, after the one time Judas sold him for 30 miserable pieces of silver, after the three times that even Peter himself denied that he knew him … surely there would be reason to bask in the glory of the resurrection and give everybody that “I-told-you-so” attitude.
No, the risen Christ was busy doing service to the very same people, some of whom did him a whole lot of disservice.
Today, the evangelist John once more reminds us of what his dying on the cross is ultimately all about – an all out life of service and self-offering to others. He coached and coaxed a discouraged and sleepy fishing crew who has labored all night in vain. He led them to where fish was available and abundant. Knowing them to be not only discouraged and tired, but also hungry, Jesus lit up a fire and prepared some food – bread and fish for those whom he would be sending out to catch more than just fish.
Jesus’ attention was apparently focused on the head fisherman, the next one in line after him as the master and teacher. The fire around which the Risen Lord brought them to share what he had prepared and warm themselves up with, was reminiscent of the fire around which the shaking and insecure Simon warmed his cold and clammy hands, as he coldly denied the Lord three times before harmless servants. The fire that exuded warmth and love close to which, the Lord, on the way to his death, looked on ever so warmly and lovingly at Peter, is now represented by another fire. Around that fire, the Risen Lord casts his loving glance at Simon whom he prods with gentle questionings: “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”
For as many times as Simon denied his Lord and Master, he was asked to profess his love for the same Lord: “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
But Christ was looking for more than just love. The Risen Lord was expecting more than just lip service. He was looking for a sense of mission more than just a shallow profession. “Feed my lambs.” The risen Lord was looking for living proof of that love, as real as his own suffering, death and resurrection, and as real now as his act of loving service to them, leading them to a bountiful catch, and preparing for them a well-deserved meal after an otherwise futile night of toil.
The Lord was asking his followers, most especially Peter, to “walk the talk,” to do as one says, to live as one believes. “Feed my lambs … Tend my sheep … Feed my sheep.”
Our society all over the world nowadays is never wanting in examples that point to the opposite of what the Lord tells us today. The culture of rugged individualism, what Twenge (2009) calls the “narcissism epidemic,” that makes people go out and be number one, and try to outdo everybody else comes out very clearly in the Mass Media, most especially in the current craze that keeps tens of millions glued to their TV screens on any given night – reality TV! Survivor … Fear Factor … Who Wants to be a Millionaire? … The Apprentice … etc… I would not want to venture on what it is each one of them fosters, but whatever it is, it has absolutely nothing to do with being modest, coy, self-effacing, humble, and putting others’ needs and concerns before one’s own. Most of the 27 millions who watched the final episodes of the first season of “The Apprentice” years ago, loved to hate one female character who, ironically, does nothing more than represent what seems to be an acceptable practice in the real world – lie, manipulate, cheat, and bluff your way towards that coveted place on top, and do all this without batting an eyelash!
Let’s face it. The world does not exactly value self-effacing service to others. Doing one’s work quietly, being relatively unknown while working for others’ welfare no longer count among the most popular dreams of people in societies all over the planet. If it means anything at all, the fact that the first series of “The Apprentice” attracted 200,000 applicants and the second, about 500,000 just shows how much leadership and success are equated with that much coveted 15 minutes of fame.(In Philippine setting “Pinoy Big Brother” attracted 50,000 hopefuls during audition recently!) The statement of that famous face on TV with that unique, flamboyant hairstyle who is emulated by many yuppies all over is reflective of the current values upheld by people nowadays. When asked by a phone-in televiewer how he manages stress, he answered: “Even if there is an earthquake, say in India which kills 400,000 people, I just say to myself … it doesn’t matter… it just doesn’t matter.”
Today, the example of the Lord shows us that there are things that matter in this world, and that the Christian believer also needs to undergo some form of good stress (eustress as distinct from distress). We are further reminded that leadership is not to be equated with what it is identified with by most people. Leadership is not primarily equated with honor, prestige and glory. Leadership has to do with service, and in that sense, is the duty of all followers of the risen Lord.
Recent social teachings of the Church, particularly that of the late Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, have concretized exactly how this leadership by service could be done by all. One need not have an office or position to do service. One need not be powerful or extremely rich. Even the poor are called to ministerial service. Service is never a monopoly of the moneyed and the powerful. All the baptized are called to service in imitation of Christ who lived and died and rose “so that others might live” and to have life in abundance.
The way to this life of service is through the virtue of solidarity. As a virtue, it is tied up with the concept of the common good. Love for the common good, among other things, really means that what happens elsewhere in the world really matters to the rest of humanity. Attention to the common good really means that it ought to matter to the rest of the human society if entire populations live in sub-human poverty, or go through the most abject lack of social justice imaginable. For one who truly lives in solidarity with all men and women, with everyone created in God’s image and likeness, it ought to matter that 25 % of the world’s population use up 75 % of the world’s resources, while 75 % of the world’s population make do with the remaining 25 % of the world’s resources.
As I always share with the various groups of Fil-Ams in the U.S., the call to solidarity and a life of selfless service, among other things, means living out what our national hero popularized as a motto: “Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makararating sa paroroonan.” (He who does not know how to look back where he comes from, does not have much to look forward to either.)
Everything matters for the Christian believer. It just matters for the one who truly loves and cares for the Lord.