1st Reading: Acts 5:27-32, 40-41; 2nd Reading: Revelation 5:11-14; Gospel: John 21:1-19.
THEME: GOD’S PRESENCE DISPELS FEAR AND ENDOWS US WITH DIVINE POWER!
The presence of God radiates tremendous Power that brings about divine protection against all kinds of evil metaphysical powers and attacks, both in the physical and spiritual realms. His presence infuses the Spirit of Courage/ Boldness and Holy Fear upon those who sincerely and diligently seek Him, as well as changes every ugly situation, and thus restores whatever has been damaged or lost. Once the power of God’s presence is eminent, total victory in all circumstances is certified.
In the Gospel, however, after the death of Jesus Christ, Peter and other apostles were so filled with fear of what the future may hold for them, and that was why they wanted to go back to their former occupation (fishing) before they were called by Jesus Christ. Meanwhile, Jesus Christ had chosen Simon Peter to lead His Church prior to His passion. He had even changed his name from Simon to Cephas (Peter, meaning Rock), and promised that He would build His Church on that Rock (Matthew 16:17-19).
Unfortunately, when Jesus Christ was arrested, due to fear, Peter denied Him, not once but three times, even before an ordinary maid. Ironically, Jesus Christ had earlier warned Peter that he was going to do just that, but Peter had boasted that he would never do such a thing. Certainly, fear can make us put respect for human beings before our respect for God. It can also bring about a grave loss of our sense of the sacred, for example unworthily receiving Holy Communion, until we receive Divine Mercy through sacrament of reconciliation. This is the reason why we should not boast with our human capabilities, but only with God (2 Corinthians 10:17). Also to have remorse whenever we offend God and then make efforts to reconcile with Him immediately.
Surprisingly, after the resurrection, Jesus Christ would have been fully entitled to take away the leadership of His Church from Peter. He could have concluded that Peter was so unreliable, that it was risky to entrust him with the responsibility of being in charge of the Church. But Jesus did not do that. Instead, He gave Peter a chance to reverse his threefold denial with a threefold profession of true love for Him. Thrice He asked Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Thrice Peter said, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” Three times Jesus said to him: “Feed my lambs,” “Tend my sheep,” “Feed my sheep.”
Meanwhile, Jesus Christ simply wanted to reassure Peter that he would still be in charge of the Church; the leadership of the Church would not be taken away from him as a result of his tripartite denials. He also wanted to let him understand the manner in which he would carry out such great responsibility as the Supreme Pontiff, which are: compassion, mercy and tender loving care (TLC).
The Power of the resurrection dispels the darkness of fear, filling us with the awesomeness of God. This sense of awe creates in us the fear of the Lord, which is indeed the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7). It is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that makes us to respect God and not want to offend Him in any way, and also courageous witnesses of the gospel in all situations.
Moreover, this power can only be experienced fully by those who love and obey God sincerely. Just like Peter in the first reading, after experiencing the Mercy and Power of God’s presence, he was empowered and, thus became a changed person. The same Peter who denied Jesus Christ in the presence of an ordinary maid due to fear of being arrested, now confronted the high priest himself, and told him to his face: “We must obey God rather than any human authority… we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him” (Acts 5:29-32). He then proceeded to give testimony of the resurrection to the entire Supreme Council of the nation of Israel, the Sanhedrin. What a transformation!
That is exactly what can happen to anyone who experiences the Mercy and Power of God’s presence. He or she can be so thoroughly transformed or converted – to use a more technical term that he or she will do great things for God. That was what happened to Saul of Tarsus after his encounter with Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus. The same thing happened to Augustine of Hippo after his conversion from a wayward life, and also Mary Magdalene, who was totally transformed after receiving the mercy of God, no wonder she was the first to see Jesus Christ after His resurrection.
Undoubtedly, the Sacrificial Death of Jesus Christ has redeemed us from eternal damnation, and through Him we have obtained seven powerful gifts enunciated in the second reading, through the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, singing with full voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive Power and Wealth and Wisdom and Might and Honour and Glory and Blessing!” (Revelation 5:11-12).
Finally, it is also worthy of note that, apart from the Holy Mass which is the easiest way to experience God’s presence in the Holy Eucharist (Real Presence of God), “Praise” is another way of attracting the Power of God’s presence. For the scripture says: “God is enthroned at the praises of His people” (Psalms 22:3). Paul and Silas were freed from prison through the Power of Praise (Acts 16:25-26); same goes to Jehoshaphat and Joshua who gained victory over their enemies through Praises (2 Chronicles 20; Joshua 6).
Therefore, we can easily attract the Mercy and Power of God’s presence and be free from fear only when we constantly obey God’s commands and always sought for His mercy (constant confession) whenever we offend Him. When we do these, no force would be able to stop us and we will not be deterred by anything, because we shall courageously be obeying God rather than human authority, just like Peter and his companions, with compassion, mercy and tender loving care (TLC).
May the Power of God’s presence transform, protect and empower you to courageously obey God, and thus achieve great exploits, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!!!
Peace of Christ be with you…
Rev. Fr. Ben Okala, C.S.Sp.
Click to listen to Audio Bible