3rd Sunday in Easter Homily
In Mark Twain’s biography of St. Joan of Arc, one of the most striking details is the confidence of St. Joan. You may recall that St. Joan of Arc led the armies of France to victory against the English in the 15th Century. It was incredible thing for a teenage girl to lead the armies of France into battle and to restore the kingdom. In fact, it was an impossible thing, a miracle in which God used the weak things of this world to shame the strong. The key to her confidence was not her own strength. Rather it was God. She received her commission from the Lord, and she executed it with patience and trust. She believed the word of God which was spoken to her, and this confidence radiated out into all her relationships. In other words, she was transformed by the word, and this inner communion was contagious. People wanted to be around her. Even today, people want to be around confident believers who exude inner peace and stability.
The problem is often we are unwilling to take the risk of being great. Our fears, our anxieties, our daily concerns prevent us from taking initiative and seeking the will of God with complete abandonment. I think that this fear of taking risks often manifests itself in an attitude of doing the minimum. This problem turns formation into something that happens to me, something imposed upon me by my Bishop and my formators. I play it safe by only doing what is asked of me because I don’t want to be wrong, I don’t want to make mistakes. Instead of engaging in formation out of an intrinsic desire for greatness, for holiness, for a contagious sanctity that transforms the world, I settle for getting by. This becomes a kind of tyranny in which the greatest desire is merely to be average.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus shows Peter that he is not content with the average. Jesus asks him three times for his love, and three times he commissions him for greatness. Peter has an encounter with the risen Lord, and there are two features of this encounter which we must imitate in our lives. First, the encounter is one based on friendship and love. It is not enough to know about God. We must have a deep and intimate relationship with the Lord, one which is nurtured by constant prayer and meditating on scripture. Second, Peter receives his commission from the Lord. It is the Lord who gives Peter the task of feeding his sheep, and we too must stand in a posture of receptivity before the Lord. The fruit of our friendship with the Lord is that we must respond to what we receive. We must be guided by the Holy Spirit.
Being guided by the Holy Spirit will give us a confidence that will be contagious and inspiring. Brothers and sisters, we can be like the Apostles in our first reading. When our teaching comes from a deep and intimate relationship with the Lord, we too can speak with authority and inspire faith by our example. We will have the strength to stand up and proclaim that we must obey God rather than men. We will be bold in the face of opposition, even when it comes from unexpected sources. We can have the confidence of the Apostles, and the excitement that such a confidence brings.
The key is that we must look for how God has worked in the past so that we might learn to cooperate with him in the future. I encourage you to look for patterns of strength and courage, look for moments in which you imitated the Apostles with your zeal and your level-headed confidence. Each one of us was commissioned for greatness when we were anointed at our Confirmation. We have received a spirit of adoption which God has given us to proclaim his love to the world. Let us learn to be receptive to how he is bringing that about in our lives.