by Fr Dumisani Vilakati
Click HERE for this Sunday’s readings in Siswati
First Reading: Acts 5:27-32, 40b-41
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 30
Second Reading: Revelation 5:11-14
Gospel: John 21: 1-19
This Sunday we are reminded of what it means to live a truly Christian life in union with God. “It is more necessary to obey God than human beings”.
The first reading recalls the courage of the apostles who speak in the name of the Lord before the Council. This narration is placed in the same chapter with the deceit of Ananias and Sapphira, who, claiming to be Christian, withhold money from the sale of a property and subsequently merit severe punishment. We learn early on therefore that opposition to the Church’s missionary activity was both from within and without as seen in the behaviour of Ananias and Sapphira as well as the orders from the Council. All the apostles, as if singing, stand up and proclaim that it is necessary to obey God than human beings. We note that it is not just the apostles speaking here, but the Holy Spirit, who witnesses with them. Whoever obeys God more than human beings is in the same corner with God’s Holy Spirit.
The responsorial psalm is a hymn to divine providence. It expresses the confidence of the one who trusts in God as he sees a transformation from mourning and sadness to joy. The psalmist cries out: “The Lord is my helper”. Life in God requires the Christian to see God as a helper in both joyful and sad occasions.
The second reading takes us beyond this world as we are allowed to see heaven where God sits on the throne. It is the Lamb (the lion from the tribe of Judah, the root of David) which is Jesus himself, who, together with the one sitting upon the throne is worshipped by the elders. No one may truly worship God unless he enjoys a certain union with God. As we go through the Easter season let us pray that our worship may be more fervent and sincere so that it may expresses all the more our life in God.
The gospel presents themes of fishing, eating, shepherding, loving and glory. We can divide the gospel into two scenes. The first scene covers themes on fishing and eating with the second covering themes on shepherding, loving and glory.
The first scene recalls the appearance of Jesus by the Sea of Tiberius. Peter appears at the head of the story and his influence extends to the other disciples as he resolves to go fishing. Fishing was his primary profession and yet that night they caught nothing. With assistance from Jesus in the morning they were able to catch a large haul of fish. This leads to the meal as they enjoy roasted fish with Jesus.
Sharing a meal, at least for the peoples of Palestine, was a sign of fellowship. This is also the case among the Swati people as we hear now and again the saying: sidlela elugcwembeni lunye. Yet we also know that a meal can at times be used as a sign of exclusion. In common speech when we hear of lugcwembe lweMalangeni we know that this means the exclusion of many people from the privileges enjoyed by the Swati Royal Family.
Jesus’ banquet is unlike the one of the Swati royal household as it is open to all. Through the meal he establishes once again the bonds of love and friendship with his disciples. Christian families would do well to place a spiritual emphasis to the meals that they enjoy together. The meals could be moments of strengthening not just family bonds but union with God as well. The meal that we share at Mass is a true strengthening of our spiritual bonds as a community of Christians.
The second scene is on shepherding, loving and glory. Do you love me more than these? What are these? John makes no effort to list these things. Given the context of the question it is proper to think that Jesus might be thinking of Peter’s profession as a fisherman, the boat lying there or even the fish that may have been left over after the meal or even the other disciples. Most of these as we note are material things.
The one who wants to enjoy life in God should love God more than material things. The response in Acts is appropriate again: It is more necessary to obey God than human beings. A close reading of the text tells us that Peter is invited to an unconditional love for Jesus and his flock. Peter fails to commit to this unconditional love as he commits himself to love based only on friendship. Jesus, as Peter says, knows everything. Jesus knows that Peter enjoys a certain union with God. Peter will grow in his love for God and overcome all imperfections and reach that stage of unconditional love requested by Jesus. That will happen at his hour of glory unto which he is called at the end of the passage. Peter is invited to be a shepherd, just like his master and glory awaits him just as Jesus also arrived at the hour of his own glory.
As we journey through Easter let us commit ourselves to grow in our love for God and neighbour by uniting our lives more closely to God and obeying God more than human beings.