Apr 9, 2016

Third Sunday of Easter

John 21:1-14 

On the last week of May in 1940, nine months into the beginning of World War Two, and a year and a half before the United States joined the Allied Forces against Hitler’s invading armies, one of the greatest rescues in military history took place on the shores of France at the beachhead of Dunkirk.  400,000 British and French troops were trapped and pinned down by the advancing German armies. The coast of England was only 50 miles across the sea.

But because of the shallow waters, the large British warships could not reach the men safely to rescue them. The hundreds of thousands stranded on the breaches came under continual fire and bombardment from the enemy forces all around them.  Only some who were brave and strong enough to battle the raging sea made it out to the distant Allied ships. Likewise, many who attempted, drowned or gave in to hypothermia and perished.

A desperate call went out to every shipbuilder and boat owner around the English coast. Messages were sent to secret contacts up the coast in Belgium and Holland to get every vessel they could find and sail to Dunkirk to help rescue the nearly half a million men who were fighting for their lives. 

During the course of ten days, under constant fire, over 700 small vessels - made up of fishing boats, private yachts, coastal lifeboats - came to the rescue and helped evacuate 338,000 stranded men, bringing them out to the Allied Command ships waiting in the deeper waters to receive them.

Consider how this event, historical and epic as it is, applies to us here and now and our experience of being members of the Church.  When we look at the big picture, we can easily compare the Church to a large and mighty ship, navigating her course through time and history amid the raging sea around her, often under fire by hostile forces. Within her, she carries men, women and children of every culture, from every land and every race - the young and the old, clergy and parishioners, the married couples, the single, the young and the children. There is room on board for everyone, for the future of humanity depends on their safety.

Maybe, it is no accident that much attention has been given, during these past days, to the pope’s recent exhortation on the challenges of marriage and family life. It underscores that we are not simply one, huge family, only united in our common faith and understanding of the life of grace. We are also a flotilla of little boats, an armada of ships of different sizes and circumstances, taking on the challenges and casualties of the world.  In the Gospel, it took Peter with all his strength to haul in all the fish himself and secure it at the feet of Our Lord. And maybe, this is what Peter has done again - through Pope Francis - to spread out before the feet of Christ the many different circumstances and challenges of every married couple and their family life.

As he also did in the Gospel, Christ stands again on the shoreline, directing us, asking us to recuse and to help secure the salvation of every member of our common family. Our little unarmed boats in the great ocean, often feeling the stresses and anxieties of life on every side, need the Church’s protection. For within these little boats, the tired and the wounded, the brave and the weak, the stranger and our brothers and sisters are to be brought home

Let us pray for the openness to hear the voice of Christ, and the courage to come to the rescue to help bring on board and welcome with gladness those who fear they have been abandoned and forgotten. There is room for everyone who needs safe passage home, there is also a medic on board and a quiet place for healing, so that when you have regained your strength, there's a place at the table waiting for you in the company of the family of saints.

Responsorial Psalm 30

“I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.”

I will extol you, O LORD, for you drew me clear
and did not let my enemies rejoice over me.
O LORD, you brought me up from the netherworld;
you preserved me from among those going down into the pit.

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