The Apathy That Threatens the Newness

3rd Sunday of Easter (C) – April 29, 2022

St. Paul – Lyons, KS

Acts 5:27-32, 40b-41; Psalm 30:2, 4-6, 11-13; Revelation 5:11-14; John 21:1-19

Celebrate! …and then get back to Netflix

Spring is here, which means it’s the time of great hope and anticipation! Right now as the school year starts to come to an end, there is a lot of anticipation and desire. Graduation is right around the corner, kids are moving from high school to college or to a job—and there is a lot of anticipation and excitement around that. Kids are moving from eighth grade to college, elementary school to middle school. Here in the parish, kids have been preparing for Confirmation and will be confirmed next week; kids have been preparing for the first communion, and the day has arrived. Springtime brings baptisms and weddings and parties and cookouts—heck, even the tornados seem to be exciting. 

But then? Well, then…all good things come to an end. This is our experience! The excitement comes and it goes, but mostly it goes. It’s like those pictures people take and post all over Facebook: it’s this picture perfect family gathering, everyone is smiling, everyone looks like they’re having a great time. But I’ve been to those gatherings: people are on their phones most of the time, people are fighting. Everyone smiled for the picture, but then it goes back to pure apathy.

Or even in the great times, the great experiences we have—they’re amazing, the best ever. But then we wake up the next day…and it’s like it never happened. Or sometimes it doesn’t even take until the next morning: we get home, immediately turn on the TV, pull up YouTube, TikTok, Netflix…and it’s like nothing ever happened. We can have these incredible experiences, experiences we have been anticipating for weeks, months, years, even our whole life—and then the very next day, the very next day live as if nothing had ever happened. In fact, more often than not, we feel let down: “That was it?”

The Newness of Easter

I’ve been using the same core message since Easter (I’m lazy, what can I say?)—but like I’ve been saying, the great proposal at Easter is what? “He is not here, but he has been raised.” He is risen! In other words, something new has happened, something new has broken into this world, some new experience, some restoration has happened—as a result of which everything is different. Everything. Finally, there is a possibility for something new to enter in! An experience like this that doesn’t have to end, perhaps!

As we’ve been reading the past few weeks, Jesus appears to the women, to the apostles—and their lives are changed, their hope is restored, their lives take on a whole new meaning. All from that simple proposal, that simple announcement: “He is risen.” Everything is different. There is never a day in their life that is the same, right? *Shakes head*

“I’m Going Fishing”: If He’s Not Present, We’re Stuffed

One thing that really strikes me about this Gospel reading today is that Peter has already seen Jesus alive—twice! On at least two different occasions he has seen the risen Jesus Christ! The risen Jesus. Jesus. Risen. He has seen Jesus. Jesus. He has seen Jesus risen from the dead. Talked to him. Been with him. Seen him.

But even then…even then, he falls into an apathy. The same apathy that each one of us has felt from whatever experiences in our life. And Peter says, “I’m going fishing.” In other words, “I’m going back to YouTube. I’m going back to golf. I’m going to watch some more cable news.”

Here in the midst of this amazing newness, a new promise, a new chapter—in the midst of all of this, upon waking up one day, Peter has the experience that many of us have had: nothing seems to have changed. We were all excited a few weeks ago for Easter! Stoked out of our minds! Church was overflowing! But then by about your 27th piece of candy the day…you picked up your phone, flipped on Netflix, whatever it is, and life continued as if nothing had happened.

What Peter is experiencing in this Gospel today is what many of us have experienced, or experience quite frequently; Peter experiences what many of us feel on a regular basis: “Jesus is not here. Sure, he is ‘risen,’ he is ‘present’ in the Eucharist or something, maybe, I don’t know. But he’s gone. And so he has nothing to do with my real life.” For many of us it’s like, “So now I go to Mass, because that’s what you do: you go to Mass.” But is that all? Is that all that Jesus rose from the dead to do? Make us go to Mass?

Christ Reveals Himself to Be Present

In this striking scene from the Gospel, Jesus reveals himself to be present. Jesus appears to Peter, just like the first time! On a normal day while Peter is fishing (and really doing a terrible job, let’s not forget that: Peter seemed to be rubbish at fishing, two-for-two at catching nothing, that’s what the Gospels attest for all of history!) But Jesus reveals himself to Peter once again, and reveals himself as still present, still at work, still as present as he was the first day Peter met him!

Jesus is present in these circumstances, or he is present nowhere.

In China, during the Boxer Rebellion, about 100 years ago, Chinese soldiers were ordered to destroy Catholic churches across the country. They took tabernacles and sacred vessels, and imprisoned Catholic priests. There was one church in the Chinese countryside that was destroyed, while a small girl hid in the back, unnoticed but observant. She watched as the priest was arrested, as the tabernacle was torn away, and as the Sacred Hosts, stored within a ciborium, were strewn across the floor. The girl noticed where the Hosts landed, and noticed that the soldiers never bothered to pick them up. She went back to her home that afternoon, and told her parents what she had seen. And that night, slipping past guards and police officers, she snuck back into the Church, knelt before the discarded Hosts, and spent an hour in adoration. After she had spent time in prayer, she consumed one of the Hosts, and secretly made her way back home.

Thirty-two hosts had been thrown across the church floor, and for 32 consecutive nights the young girl went back to the Church. Spending time in adoration, one by one, she consumed the Holy Eucharist. On the last night, after the girl had received the Eucharist, she accidentally woke a sleeping guard, who chased her down and beat her to death. The parish priest, under house arrest but watching from his window, stood by helplessly as the girl became a martyr.

The story of the girl’s martyrdom was passed from home to home, and from priest to priest, and eventually it was heard by the young Father Fulton Sheen. When Father Sheen heard the story of this young martyr, he resolved that he would spend an hour in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament every day for the rest of his life.

Christ continues to be present in ever circumstance in our life. Every single one. But what the priest recognized, through the faith of this girl, was that Jesus Christ continues to be present especially in the Eucharist.

Many of you have shared with me how powerful it was for you to spend time in Adoration during Lent. And that’s precisely it. The Eucharist is not the only way that Christ shows his presence—not at all. But the Eucharist is such a concrete and tangible way, spending time in adoration of the Eucharist is such a powerful and concrete way to be with Jesus Christ, to be with him present, calling us forward, giving us the courage and boldness to follow him.

Is Jesus Still Present and At Work?

The question we need to ask is, “Is all of this over, are we on our own? Should be just go back to YouTube and TikTok and the news?” Or, “Is Jesus still at work? Is Jesus still present? Can we recognize him as still present? Can we allow his presence to reinvigorate us to live our real life, live the circumstances in which we are placed, every day?”

What the Eucharist tangibly and concretely guarantees for us is: yes. Like John pointed out to Peter, “It is the Lord.” Here on this altar, from this altar…it is the Lord. And just like with Peter, it is this presence, his presence here, that can give us a renewed confidence in the difference his resurrection makes. We need him present. Because when he is present, like Peter we can confidently hop out of our boat, hop off of whatever we turn to in our apathy, and follow him once again.

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