Sunday, April 26, 2009

Why Jesus Ate The Fish

(Third Sunday of Easter (B): This homily was given on April 26, 2009 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani. Read Luke 24: 35-48.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Third Sunday of Easter 2009]

Was Jesus hungry? Is that why he ate this piece of baked fish in the presence of his disciples?

We get hungry and need physical food because our earthly bodies are NOT immortal. If we don’t eat for an extended period of time, we die.

But the Scriptures make it clear that the risen body of Jesus was qualitatively different from ours. After his resurrection, for example, Jesus could walk through walls; he could appear in an instant, and could vanish just as quickly—as he did with the two disciples he met on the road to Emmaus. And, most importantly, after he rose from the dead Jesus could not be killed, because his body was no longer subject to those forces that lead to death. In other words, he was what we would call “immortal”! Romans 6:9 puts it this way: “We know that Christ, once raised from the dead, dies no more; death no longer has power over him.”

So he couldn’t possibly have been hungry.

Then why the meal?

The answer is that he ate for us! He ate for our benefit—and for the benefit of Peter, James, John, and the other disciples who were gathered with them that day, presumably in the upper room.

He ate to make it clear to all of us that he had a real—though resurrected—body. He ate to prove to all of us that he wasn’t a ghost or a mirage—which is precisely what some of his apostles were thinking at the time! That’s why Jesus said to them here, “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.”

On that note, Bishop Sheen once pointed out that there’s a certain irony about the resurrection stories in the New Testament. The irony is that the apostles were the biggest skeptics of all! The apostles, who were supposed to be Jesus’ most faithful and devoted followers, had the most difficulty believing that he was alive. The Jewish religious leaders, on the other hand, who said they didn’t believe in Jesus and his teachings, actually stationed guards at the Lord’s tomb—as if they thought something extraordinary might happen!

It took a number of appearances, in a number of different settings, to lots of different people, before the apostles were convinced that the Lord really did rise from the dead in his human body on Easter Sunday.

But once they were convinced, they were willing to die for what they believed!

What would those apostles think of Christians today who hide their faith under a bushel basket?

What would they think about a Catholic university that covers up a monogram referring to Jesus Christ just because some politicians don’t want it on camera?

Most of you know what I’m referring to, I’m sure. Last week President Barack Obama gave a speech on the economy at Georgetown University, and the White House staff asked the school administration to cover up the monogram in back of the presidential podium in preparation for the talk.

The monogram had three familiar letters on it. They’re actually Greek letters, but they look like the English letters IHS.

These are the first 3 letters of Jesus’ name in Greek, which form an ancient and well-known symbol of our Lord and Savior.

Can you imagine how Peter, James and John would have responded to this request from the White House?

I can: “With all due respect, sirs, this is a Roman Catholic institution of higher learning. We live our faith, we don’t hide it. We love everyone; we respect everyone from the moment of their conception until the moment of their natural death—because we believe they’re created in the image and likeness of Almighty God. All we ask is that you treat us the same way. All we ask you to do is respect us and our beliefs. So no, we will not cover up that monogram on the back wall. We will not deny our Savior and Lord in that way. We hope this meets with your approval. If not, there are other state run schools in the near vicinity where the president can make his speech. And if those are unacceptable, there’s always the local street corner. It’s public property, so you can put anything you want in back of the presidential podium. No one will stop you.”

That’s how the courageous apostles would have responded. As for the spineless, gutless Jesuits who run Georgetown University at the present time, they put up a big, black piece of plywood and covered over the symbol.

To which I say, “Matthew 10: 33.”

In case you don’t have your Bibles with you, that line reads, “[Jesus said,] ‘If you deny me before men, I will deny you before my heavenly Father.’”

We live in a society right now in which the cultural elites do not respect Catholics and most other Christians.

But who can blame them?!!!

Why should they respect us, when we don’t have the self-respect to be true to what we say we believe? Why should they respect us, when even priests do imitations of Pontius Pilate and wash their hands of Jesus whenever it’s inconvenient to be faithful to him? The Georgetown fiasco and the Notre Dame fiasco (which I won’t get into today) are just the two latest and most noteworthy examples of a sad trend that’s found everywhere, among clergy and laity alike.

So today, ask yourself this question, and try to answer it as honestly as you can. It’s an old question that you’ve probably heard before, but it fits in perfectly with the theme of his homily:

If I were on trial for being a Catholic Christian, would there be enough evidence—enough visible, public evidence—to convict me?

If you’re as convinced as the apostles were that Jesus Christ is risen and alive, then there would be plenty of evidence to keep you behind bars for a very long time.

And that, in this case at least, is a very good thing.