I thought I would post one of my homilies from the Introduction to Homiletics class. If you are interested in the readings for this particular Sunday they are:
First Reading: Acts 5:27-32, 40-41
Psalm: Psalm 30:2, 4-6, 11-13
Second Reading: Revelation 5:11-14
Gospel: John 21:1-19
Here’s the homily.
Have you ever had déjà vu? That feeling that you’ve been here before – that you’ve already experienced this? Have you ever had déjà vu? That feeling that you’ve been here before – that you’ve already experienced this?
That must have been what the apostles felt. It wasn’t that long ago, just a couple of years, that they were having another bad night of fishing and this man named Jesus told them to throw their nets over the other side of the boat. They did and caught a boatful of fish that day too. That was Jesus’ first appearance to them, when he called them to follow him and become fishers of men. This time it was a little different circumstance – or was it? Yes, Jesus had been crucified and resurrected, and yes, they had already seen him twice since the resurrection. But I don’t think the apostles were too sure what to do next. It must have been a very troubling time and they needed some comfort, something familiar. Peter decides he’s got to do something and exclaims, “I’m going fishing,” and the rest follow. I guess when you’re not too sure what to do it always seems best to go back to something comfortable – like going fishing.
I also think this “let’s go fishing” reaction of the apostles gives you and I a little hope. How many times have we had a task in front of us, or been confronted by our weaknesses, or been just a bit overwhelmed by life, and we run back to things that are easy or familiar to us. Maybe someone is prompting us to do something a little different, or challenging us to look at life a little differently and we cling to the known, rather than take on the unknown. It’s a little like déjà vu – we’ve done this before and it’s familiar, maybe we even like to do it, and it usually doesn’t take us out of our comfort zone. More realistically it puts us right in the middle of our comfort zone. Almost like a little déjà vu security blanket that we need to hold on to at times. I have a friend that washes his driveway when he has a big decision to make or needs to think something through. I usually play a little guitar. Peter just goes fishing. But the déjà vu of the apostles goes a little deeper.
Here are the apostles, fishing, just like before, and Jesus asks if they’ve had any luck. I’m not sure if these guys could have made it as fishermen because for the second time now they’ve caught nothing. Jesus insists that they cast just one more time and they catch more than their nets will hold. In that moment, in their déjà vu, they realize it is Jesus talking to them, and just like before they follow him. It gives us hope in second chances when Jesus again gives the apostles a second chance. In fact it is in the second chances, or the déjà vu moments, when Jesus ministry becomes clearer, more real. Today we see him feeding his apostles fish and then breaking bread. A while earlier he fed 5,000 on a couple of fishes and a few loaves of bread. Just a few days before he broke bread and shared the cup with the twelve, and then he broke bread in Emmaus with a couple of other disciples. Each moment, in the breaking of the bread, it feels a little like déjà vu. Isn’t that what it takes sometimes for us to understand the love of God, or the depth of Jesus’ gift of salvation and redemption on the cross? To see it over and over again? To experience it one more time? Each times Jesus breaks bread with his followers – something happens. And this time was no different.
Jesus feeds his disciples and then its déjà vu all over again. He asks Peter if he loves him – three times. And each time Peter answers that he does. And each time Jesus tells him to “feed my sheep.” How many times is it going to take for Peter to get it? At the Last Supper Peter claimed his undying love for Jesus and then turned around a few hours later and denied him three times. Here’s a little theological déjà vu for us. Jesus gives Peter a second and then a third chance to be redeemed for his three denials when he asks him three times if he loves him. Jesus is all about second chances, and third chances, and maybe more chances if needed. But at some point Jesus must expect that we will get the message and act on it.
Our first reading fast-forwards us to a few days or weeks after Jesus’ Ascension. Peter and the apostles have finally gotten Jesus message about feeding his sheep and spreading the good news. They seem to be preaching everywhere about Jesus. And we also see the Sanhedrin and the high priest in a little déjà vu moment of their own. They must have been thinking – didn’t we deal with this Jesus character just a few weeks ago? Didn’t we have him put to death so that his followers would go away? What are these guys doing speaking his name? We had Jesus crucified for his message of the Kingdom of God, and here come Peter and the apostles preaching the same thing. In fact we learn that the Sanhedrin had already warned the apostles about telling the story of Jesus, yet here’s Peter and the boys, back in front of them again for the same reason – déjà vu. But for Peter and the disciples, this time it’s different than before. This time they understand the message of salvation and redemption. This time they recognize the sacrifice of love that Jesus showed them on the cross. This time they’ve been given the power of the Holy Spirit to preach, and that’s just what they’re doing. Instead of looking for their déjà vu security blanket they proclaim obedience to God, they’re rejoicing that they’ve been found worthy to suffer for the sake of the name of Jesus. That’s a big change for the apostles. But that’s the hope that comes from Jesus in our déjà vu experiences of God.
We’re in a déjà vu moment ourselves – here today. How many times have we heard the gospel proclaimed? How many times do we enter the church with the same problems and life challenges as before? Celebrating the Eucharist can definitely be a déjà vu security blanket – inviting us into the comfort of God’s presence. The songs we sing, the prayers we share, the community around us, and even the pew we sit in can give us that feeling that everything is going to be okay. But it can also be an important point of change, of conversion. Today we break bread, like Jesus did 2000 years ago. Today we give thanks and preach the Gospel, just like the apostles did 2000 years ago. And today Jesus is present, just like he’s been for the last 2000 years, in the Word, in the Eucharist, in the body of believers that give thanks to his holy name and proclaim, “Alleluia, He is risen.” But just like 2000 years ago Jesus is also asking us, inviting us, to get the message and act on it. Jesus’ own words challenge us – “Do you love me? Follow me.” “Do you love me? Spread the good news.” “Do you love me? Feed my sheep.”
When we answer yes to Jesus’ challenge and take up our own cross for Christ, it is in this moment that our déjà vu is no longer a security blanket, but a point of change, a point of conversion. In this moment we can all fall down in worship and say, “I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.”