Two weeks ago we gathered together here to celebrate Easter, and now we continue our celebration of the great fifty days of Easter. This lasts from Easter Day to Pentecost, which means fifty. Despite all the pain and sadness in our world, we are filled with joy at Our Lord’s Resurrection from the Dead. Through this time of rejoicing we are transformed, we are filled with love, and we are empowered to change the world, so that it too may be filled with God’s love.

In today’s first reading the Pharisee Saul continues his persecution of the embryonic Christian Church. Soon after this he encounters Jesus, who doesn’t say to him, ‘Why are you persecuting my Church?’ but instead says, ‘Why are you persecuting me?’ We are used to understanding the Church as the Body of Christ, and in the Acts of the Apostles Christ identifies Himself so closely with the Church that He and it are one and the same. That is how closely we are united with Christ through the Church. Born at the foot of the Cross when the Blessed Virgin Mary and St John are given to each other, the Church exists to contemplate Christ, to love Him, and to be loved by Him. Through our baptism we share in Christ’s Death and Resurrection, and are His Body, and we fed with His Body, to be transformed more and more into Him.

Thus, in the vision of Heavenly worship we see in the reading from Revelation, Heaven and Earth are united in the worship of Jesus Christ, who is God. As Christians we are made for worship, to be united with God in love, and we prepare for Heaven here on earth. It is why we are here, to continue our celebration of Our Lord’s Resurrection, His conquering of death.

In this morning’s gospel the Risen Lord gives an invitation to His disciples, to ‘come and have breakfast’. They don’t have any fish, so they go out and do what Jesus tells them, resulting in a huge catch of 153 fish. The disciples do not fully recognise Jesus until they have caught the fish. When they follow Christ’s commands they recognise Him. So, we too must be obedient to Jesus, and listen to His instructions.

The scene on the beach where the Risen Christ feeds His disciples makes us think back to the Feeding of the Five Thousand and to the Last Supper. Again, Jesus speaks directly to Peter, asking him if he loves Him and commanding him to feed His lambs. This is an extremely important moment. Christ asks Peter the same question three times: ‘Do you love me?’ this repetition clearly looks back to the three times that Peter denied Jesus after His arrest. Jesus’ questions clearly upset Peter. His conscience reminds him of his failure, which leads him to say, ‘Lord you know everything, you know that I love you’. Now Peter’s earlier denial of Christ is wiped away by his confession of faith. Jesus does not condemn him, but simply reminds Peter, so that he may be encouraged in his task: to feed Christ’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 Christ’s command, ‘Follow me’. It reminds all of us as followers of Christ, including those called as bishops, priests, and deacons, that we too are called to feed Christ’s flock, to teach the faith and to live our lives as an example of God’s love.

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. We do this in order 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, teaching and preaching Jesus Christ. When we do this we will give honour and worship to God, which is no different from the heavenly worship we have seen described in today’s reading from the Book of Revelation. This is the heavenly glory of which we have a foretaste here on Earth.

As Christians, we are called to bear witness to our faith in the world, so that it may believe. We are called to be witnesses, regardless of the cost. While we may not face direct persecution in this country, we are often faced with indifference, a coldness of heart, which denies the fact that what we are and what we say is important and has value. Yet we are called to live lives which proclaim the fact that life and death have meaning and value through Jesus Christ, who loves us, who died for us, and who rose again so that we might have eternal life in Him. This is a gift so precious that we cannot keep it solely for ourselves, we have to share it, and, in this sharing, it becomes a greater and more wonderful gift. In proclaiming the Good News 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 anticipating that moment here and now as we prepare to be fed by Him, to be fed with Him. We look forward to the 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. Amen.

Feed my lambs – James Tissot (Brooklyn Museum)

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