Third Sunday of Easter
May 4-5, 2019
From Fr. Anthony Ligato
Jesus brings us where we need to be!
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Going where we do not want to go, we have all had that experience a few times in our lives. As children we are forever finding ourselves having to go places, we don’t want to go to or leave places where we want to stay. Going where we do not want to go can range from having to go to the dentist, school or church. Each of these places can cause children as well as adults to resist with their full might having to go where they do not want to go. But each of these places is also a good place to be once we get there for different reasons. Take going to the dentist for example, if you have a cavity only the dentist can help us. The cavity if left unattended will cause the tooth to further decay and lead to a toothache and the tooth may need to be pulled. In light of those prospects, going to the dentist is a good place to go.
Going where we do not want to go may be the best place for us, consider a child who does not want to go to school because he has a test and did not study. The child is filled with fear and does not want to go to school. Or consider the adult who needs to be trained for a new position so they can advance. That person may be anxious because they don’t have confidence that they can be trained to learn a new skill. School is challenging no matter what age we are, we are going to places we do not want to go and the reason we usually don’t want to go is we are fearful of failure. School helps us avoid failure by teaching us how to succeed. Going where we do not want to go can often be the best place for us to be.
Now take the church as our final example, often we equate church with boredom, having to sit quietly and listen to the longwinded priest go on and on about something we do not care about or understand. Often the resistance of going where we do not want to go begins from the first moment, we are told to get ready for church. The first words we hear are, I can’t go, I have something to do or I think I am sick. That is the answer the husband is giving to his wife; I didn’t even get to what the response a child gives his mother. Once we get there, what do we bring to that place where did not want to go? For example, when we go to church, it is only as good as we want to make it. Believe it or not my role it not to entertain you but to lead you into an experience of holiness through the proclamation of the word and the sharing in the sacrament. How you encounter the Word and the sacrament is up to you.
With that in mind, let us consider our faith which continually leads us into places we do not want to go. Our Savior Jesus Christ gives us the primary example of going to places we do not want to go, but we must go regardless of apprehension. Jesus was led to Calvary a place he did not want to go but a place where He freely accepted being led to go. That free acceptance came when He suffered the agony in the garden, “Father, if it is your will take this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22: 42) The Son was being led by the Father to a place He did not want to go. You could explain it by saying God leading God’s self to a place He does not want to go but knows He has to go. We know we have to go to the dentist; we need to go to school and we need to go to church. We lead ourselves to these places even when we do not want to go, because we know it will be a good place for us.
After Jesus was arrested, He was led before the Sanhedrin and Peter who only hours before said he would never deny Jesus was led to a place he did not want to go, a place of denial. Going to a place where he did not want to go would lead him to Jesus’ trial, the place of denial. Peter did not want to go the trial, but he could not keep himself from being drawn there. “Peter followed at a distance.” (Luke 22: 54) Once he reached the outer courtyard he was recognized, “A servant girl saw him sitting in the light of the fire. She gazed at him intently, then said, this man was with Him. He denied it.” (Luke 22:57) As we know, this happened three times. Going where Peter did not want to go was ultimately a good thing for us all. This would lead to Peter accepting the mission to be the Rock on which the Church would be built.
Peter and six other Apostles were led to the Sea of Tiberius, we don’t know if they wanted to be there, but they had to be there, they needed to earn a living and eat even though the Resurrection had changed everything. Going where they did not want to go led to a huge haul of fish, beyond anything they ever caught but the Disciples did not want to go there either. “Jesus said to them, Children, have you caught anything to eat? They answered No. So, he said to them cast the net over the right side of the boat.” (John 21: 56) Going where we do not want to go can have its benefits. Peter was a direct recipient of the benefits. Just as he did not want to go to the trial, there were benefits that came to him even though he denied Jesus three times, he benefited by witnessing the crucifixion, even though it was from a distance. The benefit is the salvation of all humanity. And by his being at the Sea of Tiberius he benefited because it was the moment, he became the rock on which the church was built. “Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simon son of John, do you love me more than these? Yes Lord, he said, you know that I love you. At that Jesus said, feed my lambs.” (John 21:1517) Twice more Jesus would ask Peter if he loved him and Peter replied you know that I love you and Jesus responded, tend my sheep and feed my sheep. By his threefold proclamation of his love for Jesus, Peter becomes the new shepherd of the flock.
Jesus then tells him, “I tell you solemnly as a young man you fastened your belt and went about as you pleased; but when you are older you will stretch out your hands, and another will tie you fast and carry you off against your will.” (John 21:18) Peter went where he did not want to go but it led to something good, a share in the Kingdom of Heaven. So, the next time you are going to a place you do not want to go remember this scripture and how Peter was led to go where Christ went and all that came from going where he did not want to go.
Yours in Christ,