Friday April 20, 2001 (Audio) Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Friday in the Octave of Easter
Reading (Acts 4:1-12) Gospel (St. John 21:1-14)
In the readings today, there are two different things that we can look at. First of all, in both readings, we see almost a repeat of something that had happened before the death of Our Lord. For instance, we see Peter talking to the high priests, and he is telling them exactly, word for word, the same thing Jesus had told them: "You, the builders, have rejected the cornerstone." Recall that Jesus told them the exact same thing and they were stung to the heart and angry. They wanted to kill Him because they recognized He was talking about them. Now, it had come full circle: Peter is standing in front of them, telling them they are the builders and they have rejected the cornerstone that God Himself had chosen.
It was because they denied the resurrection. The Sadducees did not accept the resurrection at all. They were split in different parties in Judaism at that time. This idea that they are talking about, the resurrection, was something that they not only did not accept in Jesus, they did not believe in it at all. They did not accept it as a possibility, as a part of their faith. So, it made it much more difficult to accept that Jesus was going to rise from the dead, when they did not accept that anyone was going to rise from the dead.
Then we look in the Gospel reading today, and we see two things that had already been done. First of all, we see the disciples pulling in a large catch of fish. Recall the time when Jesus put out with Peter and the others in Peterís boat. Peter had caught nothing all night long. Jesus, after teaching the people, told Peter, "Put out into the deep water. Now lower your net and take in the catch." They filled the boat all the way to the top. The difference, however, is Peterís reaction. Remember, at that time, Peter fell on his knees and begged Jesus to leave him. "Leave me, Lord; for I am a sinful man," he said. Today, it is in the catch of fish that the beloved disciple recognizes Jesus. Peter, instead of saying, "Leave me Lord," jumps in the water and goes immediately to the Lord, leaving the fish behind, as well as his partners to deal with the problem of getting all the fish into the boat. Peter knew that he needed to just focus on Jesus. You see the transformation in Peter by this time.
Then, we also see the Eucharist. Remember in John Chapter 6, Jesus took the fish and the loaves and He gave them to the people. He fed the large crowd of people with the loaves and the fish. It was in the context of the Eucharist. There was the feeding of the five thousand and the walking on water. Then, in order to explain the loaves and the fish, He launches off into John 6, that beautiful passage about the Eucharist. Here again, it is the loaves and the fish. There, on the charcoal fire, they find the fish and some bread; Jesus gives it to them. We are told, very specifically in the Gospel, that Jesus took the bread, He broke it, and gave it to them. Once again, we see that Eucharistic theme.
The Church, then, is sent to lower the nets and bring in a catch of fish. That is all of us. We are the ones who have been brought into the boat, the Church being the boat of Peter. We are all called to be part of this. Notice that Jesus tells Peter, "Bring some of the fish that you just caught." We are to be transformed. Just as the bread and fish was transformed to be the symbol of the Eucharist, so each one of us is to be transformed by the Eucharist, by the Risen Christ. We are united with Him when we receive Holy Communion. We are to be transformed. Just as Peter was to take some of the fish he had just caught and put it on the fire (and that would be transformed as well), so too, those of us who have been brought into the boat, we are to be transformed into the very life and being of Jesus Christ. That is what He wants from us.
Like Peter, we need to be changed. We can be like the high priests, see the same pattern happening, and continue to reject Him. Or we can be like Peter. While we can look back and say, "Maybe I did not handle things in the past the way I should have. Maybe I did not believe as fully as I should have. Maybe the Eucharist has not meant as much to me as it should have." now we can learn from Peter and say, "Iím going to change. Iím not going to say, ĎLeave me, Lord,í rather Iím going to accept His mercy and run to Him. Iím going to really work at trying to accept the Eucharist and what it does for me." Accept that, not just in the head, not just keeping it out there at an armís distance saying, "Oh yeah, I believe that is Jesus present in the Eucharist." Rather, say: "When I receive Our Lord, Iím going to allow myself to be transformed so that I can become like the Eucharist; so that the life of Jesus can be lived in me; so that I can change," just as the bread and wine change from something ordinary to something supernatural, from something that is even subhuman to God Himself; so that we, who are human persons, can be transformed into the very person of Jesus Christ through the power of the Eucharist. That is the thing we must see in todayís Gospel. We have that choice. We can continue on our old way, like the high priest; or we can learn from Peter and we can change. We can accept the Lord and run to Him. We can be united with Him and be transformed ... into Him.
Note: Father Altier does not prepare his homilies in advance, but relies solely upon the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.