April 5, 2002 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Friday in the Octave of Easter
Reading (Acts 4:1-12) Gospel (St. John 21:1-14)
In the Gospel reading today, one could suggest that we see a different version of the multiplication of the loaves and the fish. We recall from John 6 that we had the multiplication of the loaves and the fish, and we know that in a couple of other places in the Gospels we see similar situations where Jesus fed 4,000 and 5,000 people with just a few fish. But in this case it is a matter of catching the fish. The difference is that the people were already present in the first cases and Jesus simply fed them with the fish, the few they already had. Now we see that there is a shift in the way things are going to operate. That is, the fish are a sign, now, of the people, and they are going to come into the net, into the fold, so that the Lord would be able to teach them.
As we continue to look at the Resurrection accounts, we hear about Peter preaching in front of the Sanhedrin to the high priests. He says, "If we have to explain to you how it is that this cripple is before you perfectly healed and saved, then you must know that it is in the Name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean." And even though they had arrested Peter and John and thrown them in jail, we are told that there were 5,000 men who had become believers.
So it is in the midst, first of all, of the hardship. We note that the disciples were not able to pull the fish into the boat because there were so many of them. And now we see, in the first reading, Peter and John being arrested and thrown in jail so we know that if the Gospel is going to be preached and people are going to believe, there is going to be some hardship involved. The devil is not going to be pleased with the fact that people are going away from him and coming to the Lord.
Again, it is that usual point that if you are not suffering at all, that is not a good sign; it means the devil is not upset about what it is that you are doing. We better worry if that is the case. But if you are trying to do the work of God and you are getting beat up for it, that is a very good sign. Do not look at God and say, "Why are you doing this to me?" or "What am I doing wrong?" or "Why is this happening when all I’m trying to do is what’s right?" But rather, look at it just the opposite and be able to say, "I must be doing something right if the devil is angry." Praise the Lord instead of getting angry at Him for allowing you to suffer. We need to be like the disciples, who counted themselves blessed to be thought worthy to suffer on behalf of the Name.
And so as we continue to try to preach the Gospel, to try to live it, to bring Jesus Christ into the world by our words and by our actions, we realize, first, that it is going to be with some hardship, and then it is going to be only in the way that the Lord wants it. It is the Lord who told the disciples to put the net over the right side, and it is the Lord who already had the fire prepared and had the breakfast ready for them. So it will be with us. We have our part to do. The disciples had to lower the net; they had to drag the fish ashore. The Lord had done everything else: He already had the fish in place; He is the One who told them what to do; He had everything prepared. And so it must be with us. We have our little part to do: throw the net into the water; in other words, live the faith that we profess. The Lord will do everything else. He will take care of the people that He is going to bring; He will prepare everything for them; He will have it all set up. We just have our little part to do: Put the net into the water and pull the fish in. That is all that is required. That is what Peter and John did. In the temple, when they healed this man, they threw the net out into the water, and now they have pulled 5,000 new people into the fold. But it was the Lord who had set everything up, and the Lord who did everything. Peter and John had to do their little part, which included being thrown into prison and having to preach to the high priests.
Whatever the Lord chooses to do, allow Him to do it in you. However He wants to work – do not question Him, do not argue with Him, do not try to tell Him that you have a better way, and certainly do not ask Him why He is not making it any easier – if good is going to come, it is going to come with a little bit of suffering. And after the suffering is over, then we will be able to see the full fruit of what it is the Lord is doing and why He has allowed the struggle. But we need to have the same faith as Peter and John - that is, faith in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and faith in the Holy Name of Jesus, in the power of that Holy Name - and trust completely in the Lord, and rejoice no matter what happens.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.