Updated: May 7, 2019
By Fr. Humberto, PES
Alleluia! Christ is risen! Each Easter I find myself drawn into and intrigued by our readings from the Book of Acts. I find so much encouragement in witnessing the lives of the first Christians who, like us, went to work and raised families in a culture that was antagonistic toward their faith. The Apostles’ teaching about the cross and resurrection of our Lord was “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.” [1 Cor 1: 23] The early Christians faced many of the same walls we face today in speaking of the victory of God’s love--and even faced persecution, imprisonment and possible death for the sake of their faith.
The Peter of John 21
In today’s readings, we can learn from St. Peter what it means to live these difficulties in the light of the resurrection. At the time of our Gospel reading, the resurrection had already occurred, but St Peter wasn’t yet allowing it to transform his life. He was filled with love of the Lord and the humility of knowing his nothingness, but he wasn’t yet filled with confidence in the power of the resurrection. He wasn’t yet living his life with a real assuredness of the victory of God’s love over darkness and sin.
To put it simply, he was afraid. He had denied even knowing the Lord, and had run away from his friend at his time of deepest need. Peter was acutely aware of his weakness and Jesus, who had been such an integral part of his every-day life, walking with him, eating meals with him and speaking with him each day, was no longer there. Peter was afraid, and tried to escape to something familiar: fishing. But he was failing even at that. Fishing seemed like the one thing he knew, and yet he hadn’t caught anything all night when the Lord appeared on the shore. Peter had nothing to offer him but his love, and he offered that freely: “Lord, you know that I love you!” [Jn 21: 15] Our Lord doesn’t “fire” Peter as leader of the Apostles or head of His Church. Peter’s love is enough. In fact, our Lord tells Peter in his weakness that one day he will glorify God with a martyr’s death! Jesus tells Peter that his love is enough, and that the grace of God will do the rest, even to the point of making Peter a saint. What was missing? Peter was not yet living in the light of the resurrection.
The Peter of Acts
By the Book of Acts, and the story from our first reading today, Peter has found the missing ingredient. He is no longer afraid. He has learned to live in the light of the resurrection, with confidence in the power of God’s love to transform every heart.
The Jewish leaders are against Peter. They have warned, threatened and imprisoned Peter and the Apostles. Peter knows the real danger in their threats. It is why he denied knowing Jesus at the home of Caiaphas, during our Lord’s Passion. But now it is Peter’s turn to be questioned--and he is a different man! Though he is flogged and ordered again to stop speaking in the name of Jesus, he insists that he “must obey God rather than men.” [Acts 5: 29] He and the other Apostles leave rejoicing that they have “been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.” [Acts 5: 41]
To live in the light of the resurrection is to live with the confidence that we see here in Peter, and in all the saints. It is a confidence that should, on the one hand, astound us--and on the other, make us believe that all things are possible for us as well. It is a supernatural confidence that can overcome our natural fear, as it did for Peter. Because, my brothers and sisters, we are not meant to be passive onlookers of the resurrection of our Lord…we are meant to be disciples.