3rd Sunday of Easter. April 10, 2016
Acts 5:27-32,40-41; Rev 5:11-14; Jn 21:1-19
The hidden value of failure
“Children, have you caught anything to eat?”
After Jesus’ Resurrection, several of His disciples, experienced fishermen, on an all-night fishing expedition on a sea familiar to them end up catching nothing. Imagine the frustration at their failure. Then Jesus asked them this question, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?” Probably their response to Him, “No” was spoken with some anger or irritation. Why would Jesus ask such a question at such a moment knowing quite well that they had caught nothing all night long?
Recall the conversation between Jesus and Peter in Lk 21:31-34 before His Passion. Jesus had said, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you (all), that he might sift you (all) like wheat, but I have prayed for you (Simon) that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.” Peter replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day until you three times deny that you know me.”
Jesus does not pray for 100% success rate for Peter; but He prays that Peter’s faith does not fail in the face of inevitable failures during trials and temptations that will accompany His passion and death. In the divine plan, there must be failure on the part of Peter before he (Peter) can lead and strengthen others in Jesus’ name. Peter, confident about his good intentions, refuses to accept that he will ever experience any failure. We all know how he eventually betrayed Jesus three times.
But Jesus did not abandon Peter even in his failure and his betrayal of Jesus. In the words of the Catechism, “Jesus’ look of infinite mercy drew tears of repentance from Peter, and after the Lord’s Resurrection, a three-fold affirmation of love for Him.”(CCC 1428) Merciful love perseveres even in the face of painful human failure so as to move one to repentance and growth in fidelity.
This same merciful love incarnate in Jesus Christ asks the question, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?” to impress on the disciples this same truth that humble acceptance of failure is an indispensable condition for following Jesus Christ in mission to the very end. Without failure, we will never recognize deeply our need for God and our dependence upon God. Without this deep sense of our need for God, we cannot follow Christ in mission to the very end. Despite their experience in fishing and their knowledge of the sea, the disciples need to hear the voice of Jesus, they need Him to tell them when and where to cast the nets for a huge catch of fish.
Merciful love again asks, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” Does Peter love Jesus more than fishes, success, reputation, comraderies, etc.? Once Peter has accepted this truth that his deepest need is for communion with God even in his successes or failures, Jesus confirms him as shepherd in His name and guarantees that Peter will be faithful to the very end, “He said this signifying by what kind of death he will glorify God.” Peter receives the charge, “Follow me,” because he has learnt that he must experience failure before he can be on mission with Christ to the very end.
Peter and the Apostles in the First Reading respond to the threats of the Sanhedrin in these words, “We must obey God rather than men.” In addition, “they left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.” They can be faithful witnesses to Jesus Christ at such a moment because they have experienced failure and learned that their deepest need is their need for God and not the approval or acceptance of men or their comfort or their reputation. Their basis for this bold witness is Jesus Christ, who placed Himself in a position of complete dependence on the Father through the evident failures that He embraced in His earthly life, “He was killed by hanging on a tree.” But glory followed, “God exalted Him at His right hand and leader and savior to grant Israel repentance and forgiveness of sin.” Jesus Christ tasted and experienced failure (humanly speaking) before He became our leader and savior.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we do not like failure in our lives. Failure strikes at our ego; it makes us think that we have been abandoned by God. We spend all our energy and time trying to look flawless. But without failure, we will trust in ourselves or in something apart from God and thus we will never grasp the great need that we have for God at every moment. Consequently, we will lack the generosity and the perseverance that we need to follow Christ in mission to the very end.
In the divine plan, no matter our good intentions, we will experience occasional failures in our spiritual life, our moral life, our prayer life, our good resolutions, our relationships with others, the living out of our vows or commitments, in our daily duties and responsibilities, in our mission of evangelizing others. These failures do not imply we are abandoned by God. On the contrary, in such moments, God in His mercy is inviting us to examine ourselves if we are living out of a great sense of our need for Him alone or not as He asks us, “Children, have you caught something to eat yet?” We cannot be on mission with Him without this sense of our absolute need for God and utter dependence on Him.
Christ is our high priest who continues to intercede for us, “Therefore He (Christ) is ever able to save those who approach God through Him because He lives forever to make intercession for them.” (Heb 7:25) Wow! We have a heavenly priest praying for us 24/7. He prays for us even in our failures. He is not praying for our own 100% success rate because there must be failures along the way. His grace is not given to make us fail-proof. His prayer and the grace that He offers us is such that our faith does not fail in the face of failures but that in and through these failures, we have a deep sense of our need for God for all good desires as well as for the grace to follow them through to the very end.
Our Eucharist is always a participation in the heavenly liturgy in the praise of Jesus, the Lamb of God. In the Second Reading, we see the heavenly host singing 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.” Jesus is praised first for his failure in the eyes of men (being slain) before He is praised for His glory from the Father. If we too are going to join the angels in praising Jesus, then we must be willing to pass through the door of occasional failures too no matter how good our intentions may be.
Jesus Christ is with us and in us even in our failures. His eyes of mercy never leaves us as He constantly intercedes for us. His question, “Children, have you caught anything to eat yet?” is to make sure that our failures in life impress on us a deep sense of our need for God and our dependence on God alone so that we will be ready to follow the risen Christ in mission and do so till the very end of our lives.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!