In this morning’s first reading Saint Peter and the apostles are told not to preach in the name of Jesus. Naturally, it is impossible for them to do this; they have to tell the world about him and his resurrection. They do this so that the gospel may be proclaimed: the gospel of repentance and forgiveness of sins through him. To be a Christian is to turn away from the ways of sin, the ways of the world – we are obedient to God, we hear what he is said in Christ and we obey him. The church then must always be on its guard lest it ceases to be obedient to God and turns instead to the ways of the world, the ways of humanity. As St Paul says in his Letter to the Romans ‘be not conformed to this world’. It is a difficult thing to do, it is hard, it takes strength of character and confidence, and it will not be popular. But just as the apostles rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonour for the name, and did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus Christ, so the church is always called to do the same: to risk persecution, to speak the uncomfortable truth which the world does not want to hear.
In this morning’s gospel the risen Lord gives an invitation to his disciples: ‘come and have breakfast’ he feeds his disciples before asking Peter if he loves him and commanding him to feed his lambs. He asks him the same questions three times, something which clearly looks back to Peter’s denial on the night of his arrest. Peter is upset: it’s his conscience at work reminding him of his failure. But Jesus does not condemn him, he simply reminds him so that he may be encouraged in his task: to feedChrist’s sheep, to be a shepherd, a good Shepherd, and to lay down his life for his sheep after the example of his Lord and Master. This is how Peter is to fulfil his command ’Follow me’.
Peter is fed by the Lord before he is called to go and feed others, and to care for them. We too have come here today to be fed by the Lord, to be fed with the Lord, with his body and blood, under the outward forms of bread and wine, to share in his divine life, so that we may become what he is, and have a foretaste of heaven. We are fed so that we may go out and feed others, so that we may follow the example of the apostles and not cease teaching and preaching Jesus Christ. When we do this we will give honour and worship to God no different from the heavenly worship we have seen described in this morning’s second reading. This is the heavenly glory of which we have a foretaste here on Earth. We are to bear witness to our faith in the world so that it may believe. We are called to be witnesses regardless of the cost. We may not face persecution in this country; we are more likely to be faced with indifference, a coldness of heart, which denies the fact that what we are and what we say is important or has value. Yet we are to live lives which proclaim the fact that our life and death have meaning and value through Jesus Christ, who loves us, who died for us, and rose again so that we might have eternal life in him. It is a gift so precious that we have to share it, we cannot keep it for ourselves. In sharing it, it becomes a greater and more wonderful gift. In sharing it we are preparing for that moment seen by St John when all of creation will sing the praise of God, filled with his love, healed and restored by him.
We are preparing for that moment here and now preparing to be fed by him, to be fed with him, looking forward to that time when we and all creation will sing the praise of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, to whom be ascribed as it most right and just, all might, majesty, glory, dominion, and power, now and forever.