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Easter 3 (C)
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Readings for the Third Sunday of Easter, Cycle C

1. Acts 5, 27-32 and 40-41

  • When the temple guard brought them in and made them stand before the Sanhedrin.  I cannot make this beginning sentence sound as if someone is just walking down the street.  Then how should I make it sound?  I hear every day of prisoners being escorted into courtrooms by guards.  In that case I am a mere onlooker, so that would not be the way to read.  Now suppose I belong to a peace and justice group, and my friends have been arrested for civil disobedience.  Certainly I am going to take the side of the prisoners!  There it is.
  • The high priest questioned them.  I shouldn’t think of our own justice system, but of a peremptory maneuver.  The Jesus movement was not the only wildfire inside Judaism at the time, but it was happening in the shadow of the temple itself.  I also remember that the Gospel of Luke reported a similar hearing during the Passion of Jesus, so I will echo that event today.
  • Teaching in that name.  In Acts and in the Gospels we hear many unwitting professions of the Christian faith in the voices of nonbelieving Jews and Gentiles.  In scripture, "Name" refers to the living God who acts for Israel, and many Jews today use the word ("Hashem") when they mean God.  The high priest accuses the apostles of making Jesus equal to God by referring to his name.   This is a very grave matter and my high priest should sound grave.  I recall also the words of the Servant Song: "At the name of Jesus..."
  • We are witnesses of these things, as is the holy Spirit.  Peter speaks as a Jew to the council of Judean elders.  On first hearing, the speech resembles his first message at Pentecost.  I want to convey a tone of boldness rather than defiance.
  • The mid-section has been omitted; it reports the intervention of a renowned Pharisee, Gamaliel.  It reminds us that the Judean leaders were also devout worshipers of the one God, and that many of them felt less threatened by the fringe movements around them.  I included the mid-section in my reading once without fanfare, believing that it showed Luke’s balanced presentation of the council.
  • They rejoiced that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.  Who wants such a mark on their record today?  But that is the point.  Jesus died the death of a common criminal, and Christians have no reason to feel exempted from such a fate.  I intend to make this act of rejoicing a natural behavior for those who are eager to follow Christ.  Today is not the time to declare the words like a news anchor or a detached schoolchild.
  • Climax: We must obey God rather than men.  Those committing civil disobedience today repeat these exact words verbatim. 
  • Message for our assembly: God gives the holy Spirit to those who obey him.  Let us remember.  Let us always be open and receptive.
  • I will challenge myself: To speak these words in great esteem for the heroic men and women who passed on to us their faith in Jesus.

2. Revelation 5, 11-14

  • Worthy is the Lamb that was slain  How could I miss the stirring hymns that are selected for today’s reading?  Many will recall the Festival Canticle, and for others like me the final choral piece in The Messiah will resound in their heads.
  • So how should I read this short passage?  Twice I hear cry out and twice loud voice.  I lean toward a strong voice, and intend to back away from the mike as I say it.  Hearing this passage, I come to the conclusion that Revelation was included in the Bible because of the universal scope of its proclamation. 
  • First the many angels sing, countless in number, surrounding the throne.  Their sound would have a span beyond anything the Romans could have imagined, or beyond the scope of our world youth festivals.  Shouting the words would not do them justice, and just saying them with disinterest would dishonor the visionary.  I will speak them as he might, with astonishment.
  • Second comes the hymn of every creature in heaven and on eartheverything in the universe.  I am reminded not of a division between the saved and the damned but of unity among everything.  That includes the proud and the humble, and endangered species, of course. 
  • Climax: To the one who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing  And especially the Amen of the four living creatures. 
  • The message for our assembly: Every people and nation is present.  Our church is catholic, not national. 
  • I will challenge myself: To rehearse until I can broaden my span to encompass everything in the universe.  My goal is not loudness as such but strength.

Gospel. John 21, 1-19

  • Just two months ago I heard about the same stranger standing on the shore in the Gospel of Luke.  Here it comes in the period after the resurrection.  The disciples are at the Sea of Tiberias in Galilee, where three of the four Gospels place the revelations of the Lord to them.  This account is longer and I may be tempted to rush through it.  I will not do so but dwell on the important details.
  • As I listen I notice parallels with the early chapters of Genesis, including: night and day, the waters, the fulfilling word, Peter's nakedness.  I should not rush through the details, but revel in the allegory.
  • They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.  The way this story is placed, I get the impression that they returned to their former livelihoods, as in Jesus Christ Superstar: “Stick to fishing from now on.”
  • Children, have you caught anything to eat?  I say it in the form of a slow call out to the boat, and also in a rhetorical way: the boat is riding high in the water and that should tell him that they have no catch. 
  • Cast the net over to the right side.  Again I speak it deliberately.  The stranger sees something that the fishers do not.  Of course he is not a stranger, but the most necessary partner or, in a word familiar to me, a kind of entrepreneur.
  • None of the disciples dared to ask him, Who are you?  How do I say this?  Let me recall any experience in which this has happened to me, when there is someone before me who exudes depth of character (or holiness).  Moses must have felt the same way before the burning bush.  Though they do not prostrate themselves before him, they have a similar feeling.  I understand this.
  • Jesus asks Peter three times to profess his love.  There is a progression even in the text.  Peter was distressed that he had said it a third time.  Let me bring out that progression, which could go from a private reconciliation to one that is witnessed by all the disciples.
  • Climax: I lean toward the self-awareness of the beloved disciple: It is the Lord.  Others see the commission to Peter: Simon, son of John, do you love me?
  • Message for our assembly: The risen Jesus won’t appear to us as he does in paintings.  We must be on the alert to see him where he is in our lives.
  • I will challenge myself: To find the resurrection connection as I read.

From Word to Eucharist: Let there be no strangers in our church when we communicate together during Easter time.

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