Looking through the readings for this Sunday, I’m struck by a peculiar similarity between the various passages: that of freedom.
Looking first to the reading from the Third Chapter of Acts, we see the leader of the Apostles, St. Peter, appeal to the Jewish people gathered before him. As St. John Chrysostom notes, “he thrusts himself upon the fathers of old, lest he should appear to be introducing a new doctrine” (Hom. IX on Acts). How wisely he introduces the warning about to be shared! It may appear to be a honeyed pretense, as Peter seems to soften up the audience before declaring them all to be the murderers of the “author of life”, but we see him quickly assure them that they acted out of genuine ignorance. He reminds them that this is not a get-out-of-jail-free card, however, and urges them to repent and convert. Those gathered are free to accept God’s mercy.
We see this stern-yet-heartfelt tone mirrored in our second reading. John the Evangelist exhorts us to know that holiness and happiness are equally obtainable; we do not need to forego one to cultivate the other. St. Augustine, adding to this, writes that Jesus “is the advocate; do your endeavor not to sin: if … sin shall overtake you, see to it straightway,
… straightway condemn it; and when you have condemned, you shall come assured unto the Judge.” We are free to live a life of genuine joy, as our only restraints in life are brought on by our own actions; to cast off the shackles that keep us from continuing in our joy, we may freely approach our Advocate in prayer and in the sacrament of penance.
Looking lastly to our Gospel, we see the risen Christ solidify the reality of His exalted Body by asking for fish to eat. St. Thomas Aquinas quotes another Doctor of the Church,
Bede the Venerable, as saying “Christ ate because He could, not because He needed” (ST III, Q. 55, A. 6, ad. 3; see also Catena Aurea, III.XXIV). Partaking in such a mortal action to show that He was truly risen is so great a solace to those who follow Him. We have an Advocate Who understands our needs. We have the greatest Mediator before the throne of God, and we are free to give our guilt, our struggles, and even our gratitude to Him.
Let us recognize the freedoms we see in the readings today. Let us exercise our right to accept the infinite mercy of God, to live joyfully in His Presence, and to turn to the One
Who became man because He could, not because He needed!
May you all rest in the infinite mercies of God,