Be fed and then feed my sheep: Catholic homily outline for the Third Sunday of Easter, Year C

Greg Olsen Cast down your nets

“Cast Your Nets.” © Greg Olsen. Used with Permission. www.GregOlsen.com

Central idea: The Resurrection of Christ. Doctrine: The apostles and disciples as witnesses of the Resurrection. Practical application: How children of God work.

To view Lectionary 48, click here.

Central idea: The Resurrection of Christ

Reading 1 Acts 5:27-32, 40b-41

When the captain and the court officers had brought the apostles in
and made them stand before the Sanhedrin,
the high priest questioned them,
“We gave you strict orders, did we not,
to stop teaching in that name?
Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching
and want to bring this man’s blood upon us.”
But Peter and the apostles said in reply,
“We must obey God rather than men.
The God of our ancestors raised Jesus,
though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree.
God exalted him at his right hand as leader and savior
to grant Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins.
We are witnesses of these things,
as is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.”

The Sanhedrin ordered the apostles
to stop speaking in the name of Jesus, and dismissed them.
So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin,
rejoicing that they had been found worthy
to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.

  • We would like to be honored by everyone.
    • But it is not a dishonor to be dishonored by the dishonorable.
    • True honor is to be honored by the honorable.
  • To be dishonored for honoring the name of Jesus by obeying God rather than men gives the apostles joy.
  • We can be tempted to obey human authorities rather than God; or a loved one rather than God; or friends rather than God; or, most dangerous, perhaps, ourselves rather than God.
  • When there is a conflict between divine and human authority, “We must obey God rather than men,” come what may.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11-12, 13

R. I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me or Alleluia

I will extol you, O LORD, for you drew me clear
and did not let my enemies rejoice over me.
O LORD, you brought me up from the netherworld;
you preserved me from among those going down into the pit.

Sing praise to the LORD, you his faithful ones,
and give thanks to his holy name.
For his anger lasts but a moment;
a lifetime, his good will.
At nightfall, weeping enters in,
but with the dawn, rejoicing.

Hear, O LORD, and have pity on me;
O LORD, be my helper.
You changed my mourning into dancing;
O LORD, my God, forever will I give you thanks.

  • “Forever will I give you thanks.” We can only give thanks to God forever if we live forever.
  • In this life we experience many sorrowful nightfalls and joyful dawns (and joyful nightfalls and sorrowful dawns). But the great joyful dawn for us will be when God draws us up from the netherworld on the morning of our own resurrection. This will be our share in the dawn of Easter morn when Christ rose from the dead never to die again.
  • To live forever is now possible because we share in the resurrection of Christ.

Reading 2 Rev 5:11-14

I, John, looked and heard the voices of many angels
who surrounded the throne
and the living creatures and the elders.
They were countless in number, and they cried out in a loud voice:
“Worthy is the Lamb that was slain
to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength,
honor and glory and blessing.”
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth
and under the earth and in the sea,
everything in the universe, cry out:
“To the one who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor, glory and might,
forever and ever.”
The four living creatures answered, “Amen,”
and the elders fell down and worshiped.

  • In this reading and in today’s Gospel, St. John, apostle and human author of Sacred Scripture, gives us an astonishing contrast between who Christ is and how he behaves.
    • On the one hand, Our Lord is “worthy . . . to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor and glory and blessing,” and in this vision he does receive these honors from God the Father and from the heavenly court.
    • Yet, on the other hand, in the Gospel, our risen and glorified savior’s concern is to make sure the disciples have breakfast, which he provides for them.
    • What perfection of humility is in God!
  • The verse before the Gospel harmonizes Christ’s stature and his humble love: “Christ is risen, creator of all; he has shown pity on all people.”

Gospel Jn 21:1-19

At that time, Jesus revealed himself again to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias.
He revealed himself in this way.
Together were Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus,
Nathanael from Cana in Galilee,
Zebedee’s sons, and two others of his disciples.
Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.”
They said to him, “We also will come with you.”
So they went out and got into the boat,
but that night they caught nothing.
When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore;
but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
Jesus said to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?”
They answered him, “No.”
So he said to them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat
and you will find something.”
So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in
because of the number of fish.
So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.”
When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord,
he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad,
and jumped into the sea.
The other disciples came in the boat,
for they were not far from shore, only about a hundred yards,
dragging the net with the fish.
When they climbed out on shore,
they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread.
Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you just caught.”
So Simon Peter went over and dragged the net ashore
full of one hundred fifty-three large fish.
Even though there were so many, the net was not torn.
Jesus said to them, “Come, have breakfast.”
And none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?”
because they realized it was the Lord.
Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them,
and in like manner the fish.
This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to his disciples
after being raised from the dead.

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
He then said to Simon Peter a second time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
Jesus said to him the third time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was distressed that Jesus had said to him a third time,
“Do you love me?” and he said to him,
“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger,
you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted;
but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands,
and someone else will dress you
and lead you where you do not want to go.”
He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God.
And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”

  • As an eyewitness, St. John recounts this amazing encounter of Peter and five other disciples with the risen Christ.
  • Peter decides to go fishing and the others follow. They fish all night but catch nothing.
  • Then at dawn, the Lord gives them something to eat: first fish and bread he cooked for them on his own charcoal fire, and then some of the fish he provided them in the miraculous catch of 153 large fish they dragged to shore.
  • Our Lord’s concern is so homely. He wants to make sure they are fed. Then he turns to something very serious and deep: Peter’s love, his vocation to lead Christ’s Church through service, and his future martyrdom.

Doctrine: The apostles and disciples as witnesses of the Resurrection

  • Although there were many witness of the risen Christ, our primary ones are Peter and the other apostles (CCC 642).
  • When it came Christ’s prediction that he would rise on the third day, the Eleven were in no way prone to wishful thinking but rather to incredulity (CCC 643).
  • “Their faith in the Resurrection was born, under the action of divine grace, from their direct experience of the reality of the risen Jesus” as a historical fact (CCC 644).
  • One of the reasons we say that the Church is Apostolic—that is, founded on the apostles—is that they were “the witnesses chosen and sent on mission by Christ himself” (CCC 857).
  • “To be a witness to Christ is to be a ‘witness to his Resurrection,’ to ‘[have eaten and drunk] with him after he rose from the dead’” (Acts 1:21-22; CCC 995). This was the criteria for choosing the successor to Judas Iscariot.

Practical application: How children of God work

  • Our Gospel recounts how Jesus fed Peter and the disciples and then commissioned Peter to “feed my sheep.” In feeding these disciples, some of the work was done entirely by Jesus, who built the charcoal fire, who prepared fish and bread, and who served them. The apostles also brought some of the fish they caught. And even though the appearance of those 153 fish was miraculous, those fishermen still had to cast the net and drag the heavy catch to shore.
  • What God has done for us, we can do for others. Out of love, we want to.
  • However, we should not consider anything we do as done on our own, but rather begun and made possible only by grace; at the same time, God is counting on us for our own efforts.
  • The dynamics of this scene can form the pattern of everything we do. While it is true that a man can catch fish without God’s direct help (putting aside the fact that God is the final cause of the fisherman, the fish, the sea, and the materials that make up the boat and net), it is better if the fishing begins with a prayer, continues with one’s best efforts, and ends with thanksgiving, whatever the results are.
  • A Catholic prayer embedded in many longer Catholic prayers is this:

Actiones nostras, quaésumus Dómine, aspirando praéveni et adiuvando proséquere: ut cuncta nostra orátio et operátio a te semper incípiat, et per te coepta finiatur. Per Christum Dóminum nostrum. Amen.

  • This is translated, “Direct, we beseech you, Lord, our actions by your inspirations, and further them by your assistance, so that every word and work of ours may begin always from you and by you be likewise ended. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.”
  • Is there any work a person can do or should do that he cannot do in this way?

Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.)

This outline is written to be in accord with the Homiletic Directory issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (2014). (To read an excellent summary of the Homiletic Directory, click here.)

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