Today’s reflection is for the Third Sunday of Easter, May 5, 2019, and the readings can be found by clicking here. This reflection was given as a homily at the Deuel Vocational Institute, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, in Tracy.
We are told in the first reading that Peter and the apostles were given strict orders by the Sanhedrin, “to stop teaching in [Jesus’] name.” Their simple response was only this: “We must obey God rather than men.” That was their only answer and it must be ours as well. At every time, in every circumstance, we obey God. Period. They’re not our boss, He is.
I remember, being in junior high and my mom being so tired, upset, and fed up with my sister. I don’t remember exactly what the order was, but it was definitely an order she yelled out at the top of her lungs, “And you better do it!” My sister, cool as a cucumber said, “You’re not the boss of me, only God’s the boss of me.” Okay, so my sister probably didn’t get the circumstance right, but her answer was definitely right! God is indeed the boss of me. He’s my boss, he’s my advisor, he’s my director, he’s my guide, he’s my savior. I am his and he is mine.
Today’s Gospel teaches us that once we are His, there is no going back to the way things used to be. Peter, Andrew, the sons of Zebedee, James and John—they were fishermen when Jesus found them. The Scripture tells us that he called them and immediately they dropped their nets or left their father to follow this amazing Jesus. He promised that from that point forward that these fishermen would be fishers of men. How exciting! What a ride those three years with Jesus must have been for them! To encounter God and find, hope, joy, and peace in Him.
The song, Amazing Grace, expresses the joy that one discovers when being called by God. Maybe some of you are here today because you have heard the voice of God and responded. I remember when I first heard God’s voice. I was going to school up in Humboldt County. Although I was raised in a Catholic family I didn’t live like a Catholic Christian and I left the Church. One day my roommate was gone, the T.V. was off, the stereo was off, and I got this sick empty feeling in my stomach. I’ve never been lonely like that. And I had this thought that I had never thought before; I thought, “I need God back in my life.” Immediately I thought, “Where did that thought come from!”
I went to Church growing up, altar server, and lector and stuff, but I never thought of God as a relational God who could satisfy the emptiness inside of me. That thought could never have come from me. And I’m here to tell you, that was it for me. God is real. God spoke to me. I heard God’s voice. And nothing will ever be the same again. I can’t unthink that thought. I can’t unhear the call. I’m now a fisher of men. I’m like the Psalmist today, I praise the Lord because he rescued me.
Sometimes I forget though. Sometimes I ignore my relationship with God. Sometimes, like the Apostles in today’s Gospel, when things don’t turn out right, when we get confused, when our faith has been shaken by tragedy, or pain, and suffering, too often we go back to the way we were before we met Jesus. We make a commitment to follow him, but then we go back to the same old friends, the same old corners, the same old houses. It was the “Green House” for me up in Humboldt. That’s where my rugby buddies hung out, where there was always beer and pot and girls. You know that place. Every disciple knows that place for him. We make commitments to Jesus and to the Father and say, “I’m done with that old life! When I get out, things will be different!” But too often they are not.
The Scriptures tell us today that this was the THIRD time the risen lord appeared to his apostles! The third time! He told them to drop their nets because they would be fishers of men! He had a different plan for them…but they just kept going back to what they knew. Proverbs 26:2 says that just, “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his mistakes,” and 2Peter 2:23 says that, “A pig that is washed goes back to wallowing in the mud.” And so it was with them, and so it can easily be with us.
And that’s why this is called “the good news!” because we know that John recognized Jesus and Peter jumped out of the boat, and they spent time with their Lord. And we know too, that they never went back to fishing again. Peter led the Church and died for the Lord Jesus in Rome, John wrote the Book of Revelation, Andrew and James, and all the rest of Jesus’ disciples courageously followed him no matter what anybody said or what anybody thought. And if they did it, then so can we! That’s good news!
Peter had to make a conscious decision to follow Jesus and to never get back in the boat, and he did and he was our first Pope. I had to make the decision not to go back to the Green House, and I did and now God has called me to be a deacon. And you too will have to decide at some point not to go back to the block. And I can’t wait to see what God has planned for you!
Like my sister, we must affirm to old friends and neighbors, to those who lead us into temptation and evil, and sin, we must say loud and clear—you’re not the boss of me, only God’s the boss of me. And like those courageous disciples we too must say loud and clear, “We must obey God, rather than men.” Amen?
How often do I sit in the silence to hear God’s voice?
Are you responding to, or running from God’s call to you in this life?
What will it take to “stop returning to the mud?”