Sacrificial Love

Third Sunday of Easter

Acts 5:27-32, 40B-41

When the captain and the court officers had brought the apostles in and made them stand before the Sanhedrin, the high priest questioned them, “We gave you strict orders, did we not, to stop teaching in that name? Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and want to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles said in reply, “We must obey God rather than men. The God of our ancestors raised Jesus, though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as leader and savior to grant Israel repentance and forgiveness of sins. We are witnesses of these things, as is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.” The Sanhedrin ordered the apostles to stop speaking in the name of Jesus, and dismissed them. So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.

Revelation 5:11-14

I, John, looked and heard the voices of many angels who surrounded the throne and the living creatures and the elders. They were countless in number, and they cried out in a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches, wisdom and strength, honor and glory and blessing.” Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, everything in the universe, cry out: “To the one who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor, glory and might, forever and ever.” The four living creatures answered, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

John 21:1-19

At that time, Jesus revealed himself again to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias. He revealed himself in this way. Together were Simon Peter, Thomas called Didymus, Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, Zebedee’s sons, and two others of his disciples. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We also will come with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?” They answered him, “No.” So he said to them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.” So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish. So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad, and jumped into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, for they were not far from shore, only about a hundred yards, dragging the net with the fish. When they climbed out on shore, they saw a charcoal fire with fish on it and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you just caught.” So Simon Peter went over and dragged the net ashore full of one hundred fifty-three large fish. Even though there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come, have breakfast.” And none of the disciples dared to ask him, “Who are you?” because they realized it was the Lord. Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them, and in like manner the fish. This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to his disciples after being raised from the dead. When they had finished breakfast, 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.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He then said to Simon Peter a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” Jesus said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that Jesus had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”

A: A friend once was talking to me and started crying because he admitted that he didn’t love his parents enough. They had written him a letter expressing how much they loved him and about the good they saw in him. He said they always loved him even though he treated them so badly.

N: That’s how I sometimes feel. I’ve always known I don’t love God enough: I don’t always prioritize Him; I hurt Him; I don’t always trust Him fully; I haven’t yet given Him everything. But it’s only in preparation for this homily that I’ve realized that I don’t love my own parents enough. Brothers and sisters, and dear guests, can you relate to this: Is there anyone in your life that you ought to love or love more but don’t love enough?

S: The Gospel we just heard is about St. Peter not loving Jesus enough and how Jesus helps him. It’s a Spring morning, after Jesus’ Resurrection, on the shore of Lake Tiberias/Galilee (Jn 21:1,4). Seven apostles had just spent the night fishing (21:2), and then encountered Jesus who was on the beach (21:4), ninety meters away (21:8).

  • When they come ashore, Jesus has already prepared bread and a charcoal fire, cooking fish on it (21:9). The mention of a charcoal fire is important because there’s only one other place in the Bible where there’s a charcoal fire: when St. Peter denies Jesus (Jn 18:18). So, this is the place where he’ll renew His love for Jesus!
  • After breakfast, Jesus asks, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” (Jn 21:15); ‘these’ means the other apostles. This is a question Jesus asks us! And St. Peter says, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”
    • Now there’s a play on words here. In the original Greek of the New Testament, Jesus and St. Peter use different words for love. Jesus actually says, “Simon, son of John, do you [agapas] me?” in other words, “Do you love me sacrificially?” Agape means “love without reserve, total and unconditional” (http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/audiences/2006/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20060524.html). But Peter responds, “Yes, Lord, you know that I [philo] you,” meaning, “You know that I love you as a friend.” Philo means the tender love of friendship. He uses this word because he knows he doesn’t love Jesus enough. He wants to, but knows he doesn’t! This is how it is with our parents and God: They love us sacrificially, but we love them in a human way!
  • So Jesus asks him a second time, “Simon son of John, do you [agapas] me/love me sacrificially?” And Peter repeats, “Yes, Lord, you know that I [philo] you/as a friend” (Jn 21:16).
  • St. Peter denied Jesus three times, and so Jesus asks him a third time! But this time, Jesus switches to, “Simon, Son of John, do you [phileis] me/love me as a friend?” Do you see what Jesus is doing here? Pope Benedict says that “Jesus has put himself on the level of Peter” (http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/audiences/2006/documents/hf_ben-xvi_aud_20060524.html). That gives him and us hope. Jesus adapts himself to our weakness in order to help us love Him fully! This is great news!

For most of us, our children never love us as much as we love them—that’s a painful fact of life. And we don’t love our parents as much as they love us! They will always love us sacrificially, even if we don’t.

  • But a deep desire of us parents is that one day our children will love us the way we love them. Perhaps that’s why God allows us to grow old and frail, so that our children will have a chance to love us sacrificially.
    • That’s God’s desire too, that one day we, His children, will love Him the way He loves us. Actually, this is our desire. That’s why my friend cried when he got that letter from his parents.

So, how do we grow in that love? Jesus gives us three ways:

  1. We tell God and our parents we love them. This is the best way to apologize to them for the times we’ve hurt them.
    • And let me ask you this: If we don’t love God and our parents sacrificially yet, do we at least wish we could? And let’s say we don’t: We’re not that bothered by it. Do we at least wish we were bothered by it? The Jesuit, Fr. John Veltri, talks about the desire to desire (http://orientations.jesuits.ca/Decision-Making%20Format%20For%20Personal%20Use.htm). So, for example, it doesn’t bother me that I don’t love my parents enough, but I wish it bothered me more.
    • Desire is very important because it’s a start of great things! Some people sometimes get upset that they don’t love God enough—but that’s a sign that they do love God! So I’m giving you a tool for prayer: We can ask God for the desire to love Him and them more! And then eventually say it to them!
  2. After each time that Jesus asks, “Do you love me?” He tells St. Peter, “Feed my sheep” (Jn 21:15-17). In other words, if we want to love Jesus authentically, then we have to love those He loves and imitate Him (The Didache Bible, 1454).
    • St. John the Apostle writes, “Since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another… We love because he first loved us. Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen” (1 Jn 4:11,19-20 NRSV).
    • Do you love Jesus? Then love your enemies, strangers, and people you’re normally not interested in!
  3. The final way is to lay down our lives for Jesus. Jesus says to St. Peter, “Very truly I tell you, when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go” (Jn 21:18). Jesus is talking about immature love (“When you were younger”) and mature love (“When you grow old”). When we’re immature we love in a way that primarily makes us feel good, but when we grow, we’ll love to the point of self-sacrifice.
    • That’s what parents do. Whenever couples have their first child, they immediately mature, or have to mature, because now they live entirely for another person—that’s how we become like God!
    • That’s what priests are called to do! We lay down our lives for other people. We give up marriage and family so that others can live! This is great!
    • When my grandmother was sick, my mom visited her as much as possible when she was staying at the UBC Hospital, Purdy Pavilion. And my mom asked God for one grace: that she could be with my grandmother when she died, and God granted her that grace. That’s something worth asking for, that we can support our parents in their old age and infirmity.

    As was mentioned before Mass started, today we start our annual Project Advance campaign. Thank you so much for your sacrificial giving in the past! This is a financial way of supporting the diocese and our Parish Centre project. And we always keep in mind a few principles:

    1. This is an opportunity to love! That means it’s not a matter of pressure. We eliminated that pressure years ago. For a disciple, someone who puts Christ at the centre of their life, financial giving is an opportunity to love.
    2. Stewardship is part of being a Christian (http://thejustmeasure.ca/2015/04/19/20150419-gratitude-leads-to-generosity/). God gives us money and expects us to do something great with it. So, the fundamental point isn’t to give only to this campaign, but to grow in generosity! Have we grown since last year? How can we grow this year? If you want to support another need outside the parish, I’m okay with that. Just make sure it’s what God wants and that we grow in generosity. We should support our spiritual community, but I leave that up to you.
    3. Sacrificial giving is a word that’s become a part of our parish DNA (http://thejustmeasure.ca/2017/04/23/radical-generosity/). When we give to God and others, it should hurt a little—that’s a sign that we’re expanding in our capacity to love.

    Today, Jack and Anna Lam, and other volunteers will be at the back to hand out pledge forms; this saves us money on postage. Please pick up your pledge form (for any parishioner who’s registered) and consider making a gift! They’ll be here this week and next week, and we’ll try and have the best year ever! Our diocesan goal is $36,000, meaning that money goes to support the larger faith community in the diocese, and then anything we raise over that goes to our parish centre. Last year, we raised $92,000 and $51,000 came back to us. This year we hope to raise… Through Project Advance we hope to raise funds to cover the architectural costs in building our parish centre. Remember, your participation and gifts will help us get closer to having our parish centre which will serve as the gymnasium for our school children and a place for us to gather for events and ministries such as Faith Studies, Alpha, receptions, etc.

    This will breathe new spiritual life into the parish (http://thejustmeasure.ca/2018/02/25/why-god-is-asking-us-to-build-a-parish-centre/). We’re doing so well spiritually that this will complement the spiritual growth.

    V: Finishing with the Gospel, I have to tell you that this Gospel is my favourite, and explains much of who I was designed to be. I don’t love God, my parents, and you enough. But I want to. So I need to say it more! I love you! And I want to tend the flock He’s given to me. But my greatest joy is to lay down my life for God. (Some of the young men here might identify with this—that’s a priestly heart. A man who wants to lay down his life so that others can live may be called to be a priest.)

    • To hear that when I grow old, I will stretch out my hands and someone else will fasten a belt around me and take me where I do not want to go gives me so much life! Why? Because everything I do always falls short of loving Him in return. This is the way I’ll prove my love for God. I want to give Him everything. That will involve dying to self and possibly even my death.
      • I tell you this because we’re called to be saints here [Vision], and the call to sacrificial love resonates with the human heart.

    Jesus gives us three ways to love: 1) To tell Him and others that we love them; 2) To tend His sheep; 3) and to lay down our life for Him! That’s how we’ll love them as much as they love us.

Posted: May 5, 2019

Fr. Jusin Huang

 
Fr. Justin grew up in Richmond, BC, the third of three brothers. Though not raised Catholic, he started going to Mass when he was 13. After a powerful experience of God’s love through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, he felt called to the Holy Priesthood at the age of 16.


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