|The miraculous catch of 153 fish by Duccio, 14th century.|
God is the Victim
For the last couple weeks I've offered for our reflection the very real truth that Jesus is the only Victim ever whose voice has been heard after death. We can hear this voice when the Risen Jesus appears to his disciples and others after his death on the Cross. Our human culture has tried to silence this Voice or make it irrelevant, but the Easter gospels continue to be preached. Jesus lives and his Voice can still be heard!
This week, in each of the scriptures, we hear Jesus speaking. Saul, successful in rounding up those who believe in Jesus, heads back to Damascus and is confronted by the Risen Jesus: Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? Saul, not recognizing who it is, asks: Who are you, Lord? And the Voice replies: I am Jesus and you are persecuting me. Jesus identifies with his followers who have become the first to gather in his Name, the ones "called out," the Church. Persecute them and you are persecuting Jesus.
No one is victim of God's actions. God doesn't create people and bring them into the world in order to ever victimize them. There is no sin great enough to cause God our Father to do that to one of his children. Our human culture, adherent to the will of the crowd and resistant to God's will, or mistakenly thinking they are doing God's will, creates the victims of this world. It's never God. It's God, who created this beautiful world and all human beings, who is the real victim. God could say: Look at all the destruction and human suffering and death you are causing to my Creation! God is Victim. When people in this world are victimized, God is victimized! Not vice versa.
The hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. Not!
Jesus, is not the expected "Lion of Judah," who would conquer Israel's enemies with the sword, but rather the Lamb that was slaughtered, brought back to life, and seated on the throne, receiving blessings, honor, glory, and might forever and ever!
And when we continue to listen to the Voice of the Victim: Jesus, how about the Gospel today? After Jesus' appearance and words to them, the disciples still had to make a living by the only way they knew how: fishing. One morning, heading to shore after fishing without success all night, they see someone there waiting for their return. Jesus, unrecognized by them, tells them to cast the net one more time. This time on the right side of the boat. What happens? They haul in a tremendous amount of fish! John, the youngest, says to Peter, It's the Lord! Peter jumps in, remembering first to put on some clothes, and swims to Jesus. And what does Jesus say? "Come and have breakfast." The way Jesus breaks the bread and shares the fish, they all know it's Jesus.
Jesus relates to his disciples and us in a very down-to-earth fashion that is reinforced by the ensuing dialogue between Jesus and Peter. Jesus asks Peter (Simon bar Jona): "Do you love me more than these?" (The "more" in the question I take as necessary for anyone that would be in a leadership role among the disciples/apostles.) Simon answers: "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." Jesus says: "Feed my lambs." then Jesus asks the same question a second time. Simon responds again with the same answer. Jesus asks the same question a third time. Now Simon is getting a little frustrated, answering: "Lord you know everything; you know that I love you."
This is sometimes called Peter's rehabilitation. Peter denied the Lord three times, so Jesus asked him three times if he loved him. "Love," as the scriptures tell us "covers a multitude of sins." But the word "love" in our English translation misses the type or quality of love that Jesus is asking Peter about. The first two times Jesus asks Peter about love he uses the Greek word agapao. (This refers to a love that would sacrifice for another.) When Peter answers Jesus, he uses the Greek word phileo. (This refers to a love between friends, ie. Philadelphia= City of Brotherly love.) Peter, at this point, is at the friendship/love stage, not the sacrificial (give my life) love stage. What is so interesting is when Jesus asks the love question the third time, he uses Peter's word phileo! Jesus comes down, so to speak, to the stage Peter is at: friendship/love!
When I think about this dialogue and all of us who listen to it, I always think that it includes all of us too! If we, like Peter, have denied our relationship with the Lord (perhaps many times!), to save our skin or gain the popularity of others, we can assume or count on Jesus asking us over and over again, "Do you love me?" And, also, Jesus taking us right where we are (Probably most of us at the friendship/love/phileo stage.)
Peter, started, like us, at the phileo stage, but as he grew in friendship with the Risen Jesus and came to embrace the mercy and forgiveness that Jesus communicated to all, Peter moved to the agapao stage. When the Roman authorities caught up with Peter and convicted him of sedition and treachery against the State, they sentenced him to die by crucifixion, the same death that Jesus suffered. Peter told his accusers (by the power of the Holy Spirit, the parakletos, "the One called along side," the Defender of the Accused) he was not worthy to die as Jesus his Lord did. So instead they crucified Peter upside down! (Rome= San Pietro in Monotorio commemorates this)
Each one of us is growing from friendship with Jesus (carried on in an interior dialogue in our hearts and outward service to others, especially the poor and the marginalized who have no voice) to the ability to truly give our very lives on behalf of Jesus and our sisters and brothers. The Holy Spirit is helping with this growth: the ability to resist the victimization of others and the requiring of the death of some so that we might live more "secure." The Word we have heard and the Holy Eucharist we will receive in a few moments will nourish this growth of agapao love within us. Like Peter, we will be led by others where we would rather not go, but we don't go alone, because the Risen Jesus lives in us and the Holy Spirit will stand alongside us, along with a multitude of others on the same path!
Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English) meets for mass every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. (see welcome letter at sidebar) at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.
THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH WELCOMES EVERYONE