Third Sunday of Easter
Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” (Jn. 21:1-19)
One Sunday many years ago, I recall reading after Mass a bulletin insert that talked about why Mass is not entertainment. My immediate response was that Mass is exciting because there is this call and response, time for prayer, and time to love the Eucharist. Let's reflect on John 21:1-19, the Gospel reading for this Third Sunday of Easter. Jesus reminds us that we are not perfect beings and calls us to follow Him. Jesus asks Simon Peter three times; do you love Me? Simon Peter's response was, "Yes, Lord, You know I love You."; therefore, I ask you, "Do you love the Catholic Church?"
We get to be a part of God's public praise and worship. What more could one ask for at church, but I began to think, perhaps for some, it may be difficult. The Mass may be dull, a burden, even an unfulfilling obligation; therefore, some may go to a Protestant Church to be fulfilled. Mass is not intended to be entertaining or educational. Mass is time to give something to God. You focus on God and not-self, what you get in return from Mass is not measurable or material, but you are changed. This lack of a tangible take-a-way may lead to empty feelings and a desire for something greener on the other side of the road. Jesus allows Simon Peter to heal and care for the Church. Simon Peter responded with a yes, I love you, Lord, even in his distress.
Do you love the Catholic Church?
I ponder the present-day motives for one's feelings about going to a Protestant church. I am sure Simon Peter questioned why Jesus asked him three times, do you love Me. Perhaps it is the Church abuse scandal, dissatisfying music, form prayer, the unwelcoming environment that many Catholic churches represent, poor catechesis (although not the goal of Mass), or the failure of the Catholic Church to be inclusive? As Catholics, we are called to be fishers of all people, recognizing that good catechesis and cultural inclusivity are significant to keeping people in the pews.
We have to bring something to God at Mass, not just take. Although Mass is not intended to educate, maybe it should. Possibly our priests can insert some rationale, reason, and explanation into their homilies so we can better understand our faith. Do you love the Catholic Church?
The students' understanding reveals the success of a great teacher. When a great teacher asks a question, the learned student replies with a question to prove their understanding and not just the answer. For example, a teacher asks the question, what is four minus one, the learned student's response could be, teacher, what is two plus one. The moral is that understanding is a product of well-taught material. So, can a Catholic go to a Protestant Church? Let me answer this question with the wisdom of the learned student. Why would a Catholic want to go to another Church? The students' understanding reveals the success of a great teacher, and a student's understanding is revealed in their work (ministry). If you show your work, the answer will always be correct; therefore, be a good student. Each baptized member is responsible for leading, learning, and understanding the faith. Simon Peter denied Jesus three times but was worthy to lead the faith.
Sister Thea Bowman spoke about the Catholic Church as minister of a multicultural plural society. That does not simply mean allowing people to attend a church they choose, and inclusivity has been meant. Ministry should reflect the spirituality of the multicultural plural society. Mass should connect all of us to spirituality by all means necessary, fostered by established catechesis and developing inclusivity. We must be attached and linked to Mass just as our embedded ancestral portal reveals the pain and power of liberation found in call and response, prayer, and song that vibrates the soul. Sister Thea also preached that the Catholic Church must learn new languages, rhythms, and ways to glorify the Lord.
Let me end by saying, "do not leave the Catholic Church and do not go to the Protestant Church." Jesus presented Simon Peter with the Catholic Church, a great gift from God; will you be a fisher of people in the Catholic Church, and will you answer, Yes, Lord, I love You?
Authored: Darron C. Woodus, MACM
Archdiocese of Baltimore