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The Third Sunday of Easter
May 5, 2019

 

     Business as usual is the thought that came to mind when I reflected on today’s passage from John’s gospel. In that reading, it looks like the disciples of Jesus were back to business as usual - back to where they had started, to doing what they had done before they had met the charismatic, irresistible rabbi from Nazareth.  They were fishermen and here they were back doing what they knew best: fishing.

     But the reading from Acts told quite a different story. It fast-forwarded us in time to the moment when Peter and his companions stood before the high priest who gave them stern warning not to speak any more about this Jesus. And when Peter boldly declared that his obedience was to God and not to human beings, well, this was clearly not business as usual!  Business as usual for Peter was talking big but delivering small: “Even though all deny you, I will never deny you!”  Business as usual for Peter was shamelessly caving in three times when the going got rough, denying that he even knew Jesus.

     Why the change?  We know very well. Peter had encountered the risen Jesus or, better, the risen Jesus had encountered him. He had called out to him from the shore, surprised him and his companions with a huge catch of fish, fed breakfast to him and the others on the shore, questioned him about his love not once but three times, prepared him for what his future would be, and called him once again to follow. That marked the end of business as usual. The encounter with the Risen Lord changed everything!

     So, what about us?  In the celebrations of the past few weeks we have encountered Jesus. There were the powerful celebrations of Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter when we went from Upper Room to Calvary to basking in the glorious presence of Christ triumphant over death. But that was then.  What about now?  Are we back to business as usual?  Speaking for myself, and maybe for you, I’d have to say that it’s not easy to stay on an Easter ‘high!’

     On Easter Sunday I quoted some words from the 19th century Jesuit poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins “Let Christ Easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us….”

     Let Christ “Easter” in us. The poet cleverly turned the Easter noun into a verb, turned it into something – no, into someone – dynamic and alive, someone who can transform us from the inside-out.

     But how do we turn Easter into a verb?  How do we let Christ “Easter” in us?  Jesus showed us the way in his exchange with Peter in today’s gospel reading.  “Do you love me?” Jesus asked Peter three times, and each time, when Peter assured him of his love, Jesus showed him that love was not only a verb but a most challenging verb:  “Feed my lambs,” he said, “Feed my sheep!”  My friends, that’s how Christ “Easters” in us. That’s how we keep Easter alive. When we love others – love them in practical, down-to-earth, selfless ways, Christ is “Eastering” in us. And love like this makes Easter last far beyond a day.

     Now, let me point to a very practical way by which we can all respond to Jesus’ invitation to feed his lambs, to tend his sheep. I’m talking about stepping up and making a gift to the Annual Catholic Appeal. I suspect I just caused a little whiplash there (if so, you can file an insurance claim!), but the Appeal really is about feeding the flock of Christ.

     Let me explain. Your support of the Annual Appeal feeds the flock by helping our wonderful Catholic schools teach our young people about Jesus while providing them with a first-rate education. And your support covers the considerable costs of preparing men for the priesthood who will one day feed the flock of Christ. And your support for the Appeal helps Catholic Community Services do their amazing outreach to the poor and immigrants and refugees, providing them with housing, advocacy, and basic human services. And it provides chaplains for our hospitals and prisons around Western Washington. That’s only a small sampling of what the Annual Catholic Appeal makes possible and all of it, in one way or another, is feeding the flock of Christ. So, it’s a good cause, and a necessary one, and it’s part of what it means to be a disciple and to be Catholic.

     The goal set for us by the Archdiocese is $378,000 - a little less than last year, so that’s good! And our hope is not only to meet that goal but to surpass it because, as you know, our parish receives back as a rebate everything that is given over and above the goal. I’ve shared with you in my letter that our plan this year is to use any rebate monies to help offset the major costs involved in installing a sprinkler system high up in the Cathedral’s attic. After what happened last month to Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, I doubt I have to convince you that this is the responsible thing to do, the only responsible thing to do, and the right time to do it. The total cost of installing a sprinkler system will be in the neighborhood of $350,000. A lot for sure, but not so much when you consider how much we love this Cathedral. I think you’ll agree that anything we can do to make it safer and to preserve it, we ought to do.

     My friends, if Jesus is truly going to “Easter” in us, it will only be because we keep finding ways to reach out beyond ourselves to tend the lambs, to feed the flock. Your support of the Annual Catholic Appeal is one way of doing this, one good way of turning Easter from a noun into a verb!

Father Michael G. Ryan

 

 

 

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804 Ninth Avenue
Seattle, Washington  98104
Phone 206.622.3559  Fax 206.622.5303