Too many Christians are hanging out a sign saying "Gone Fishing."
Pascha, or the Resurrection of our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
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1:19 PM 4/9/2012 ó You may find this a bit morbid, especially on this day; but every year, when Holy Week comes around, my thoughts returnóand probably always willóto my very first Holy Week as a priest some 24 years ago. I officiated, that week, at my very first funeral; and that funeral was a suicide. The contrast, for me personally, was very striking, as you can imagine. On the one hand I was dealing with someone who felt so hopeless that he saw no other option but to check out of life completely, while at the same time I was busy preparing for the celebration of the Feast of the Resurrection, which is supposed to be a feast of hope. Before that week I would have said that there was no such thing as a person who had absolutely no hope at all; but, obviously, I was wrong. And when some incident like that comes along it makes you think. We come to church on Sunday and we sing the beautiful music and say all the right things in church; but do we really truly believe that Jesus Christ was dead and came back to life? Do we really, really believe it?
What do you think was going through the minds of the disciples as they saw Jesus hanging on the cross? Thereís a very interesting scene at the very end of the Gospel of St. Johnóthere are a lot of curious scenes that are recorded in Johnís Gospel that arenít in the other three, and a lot of them we donít read about in Church. Itís after the Crucifixion, and Peter and a few of the other disciples are sitting on the beach around a fire. Jesus, who had just risen from the dead, walks up to them, but they donít know who he is. And after a while Peter gets up and says, ďIím going fishing.Ē Itís a significant moment, because what was Peter before he met our Lord? He was a fisherman. Jesus told him that he would become a fisher of men, but that was three years ago; and now Jesus was dead, or so Peter thought. When he gets up off the beach and says, ďIím going fishing,Ē what heís saying is, ďItís over. It was nice while it lasted, but itís over. Iím going back to they way things were before I even met this Jesus.Ē Jesus, whom he doesnít recognize, goes fishing with him, and what do you think happens? Jesus repeats the very same miracle he performed when first he met Peter: the miraculous catch of fish. And, of course, with that, Peter recognizes who he is, and realizes that heís committed the sin of losing hope. Now, in his defense, who would reasonably think that someone could rise from the dead? And, yet, thatís what happened.
That is the hope that Jesus brings to each one of us: that when weíve reached the point where we cannot conceive of any way out of our problemsówhen there is just no solution that we can think ofóall of a sudden Jesus provides one that we couldnít have thought of because, to our way of thinking, it was impossible.
Take, for example, the ultimate fear of man: death. Itís a particularly appropriate example for Easter. We fear death so because, to our way of thinking, thereís no escape from it; thereís no way around it. You canít buy youíre way out of it; you canít lie your way out of it; you canít cry your way out of it; you canít trick your way out of it. Everybody dies. We fear it because we canít beat it. And we do everything we can possibly do to pretend that it doesnít exist. We donít even like to talk about it. When someone we know dies we never say that So-and-so died; we always say that So-and-so has passed away. And then we take our loved ones who have died and we make them up to look like theyíre sleeping, and we dress them in their Sunday best and give them a new hairdoóanything we can do to make it look like theyíre anything but dead. Not to mention all the crazy things we do to prolong our own lives as long as possible: we starve ourselves with crazy diets and take vitamins by the truck load and invest in whatever new contraption or plan that promises to make us look and feel younger. Then we come to Church at Easter and we hear that the Resurrection of Christ conquers death. What do we think that means? Does it mean that Jesus makes it so no one dies? Of course not, because we know that people do die. What it means is something that is impossible for us to comprehend or even cope with without faith. The resurrection of Christ from the tomb does conquer death, not by making it so that no one dies, but by making death irrelevant. We pass from this world because this world is not our destiny.
That is what gives the Christian hope; not that Jesus can somehow take the problems of this world and make them all go away. What gives the Christian hope is the knowledge that this world will one day pass away; and, if we have perseveredóif we have been faithful to him during our time hereóthen we, too, will enjoy an everlasting life where those problems just donít exist.
Hopelessness is a sin precisely because it proves that we donít believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. If we believe that life truly offers no options, that there is no way out, then what weíre saying is, ďItís over. There is nothing left for me.Ē And how can someone who believes in Jesus ever say that?
No, sometimes life in this world isnít a bowl of cherries. But never forget that life in this world isnít the only fruit we have to look forward to.
Father Michael Venditti