Obedience to God First! – Sunday Synopsis

Contempt for Prophets!
Fr. Justine J. Dyikuk

Third Sunday of Easter – May 1, 2022.

Readings: Acts 5:27-32,40-41; Ps 29:2,4-6,11-13; Rev. 5:11-14 & Gospel – John 21:1-19.

The first reading recounts how the High Priest demanded an explanation of the apostles about saturating Jerusalem with their preaching and putting the guilt of Jesus’ death on them. In the second reading St. John sees the vision of numberless angels shouting: “The Lamb that was sacrificed is worthy to be given power. The gospel tells the story of the appearance of Jesus at the Sea of Tiberias. Jesus said to Peter, Feed my Lambs, Look after my Sheep and Feed my Sheep. Our liturgy challenges us to always consider obedience before God first also reminds us about the primacy of Peter. As Catholics, it assures that we are in the right boat sailing towards our eternal home.  

Introduction

Friends in Christ, as a Post-Easter people, today’s liturgy draws our attention to being witnesses of the resurrection through total obedience to God. In this reflection titled “Obedience to God First, ,” we are charged to consider our general outlook about religion by setting our priorities right in following God first. We are called to abhor the tendency which makes many people to worship other human beings in place of God.

Background & Summary of the Readings

The first reading (Acts 5:27-32,40-41) recounts how the High Priest demanded an explanation of the apostles about saturating Jerusalem with their preaching and putting the guilt of Jesus’ death on them. It also notes that they gave them a formal warning not preach in the name of Christ. Responding, Peter and the apostles defied time and circumstances to categorically state that: “Obedience to God comes first before obedience to man.” They further reiterated that it was the God of their ancestors that raised Jesus up and it was the Jews that hanged him on a tree.

They were glad to state that God raised him and put him at his right side as a leader and saviour to give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. Without mincing words, they insisted “we are witnesses to all this, we and the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.” At that, the authorities warned the apostles not to speak in the name of Jesus and released them. And so, they left the Sanhedrin happy to have suffered humiliation for the sake of Christ.

In the second reading (Rev. 5:11-14) St. John sees the vision of numberless angels shouting: “The Lamb that was sacrificed is worthy to be given power, riches, wisdom, strength, honour, glory and blessing.” Then he heard the voice of all living things crying: “To the One who is sitting on the throne and to the Lamb, be all praise, honour, glory and power, forever and ever.” While the four animals said, “Amen,” the elders prostrated themselves to worship God.

The gospel (John 21:1-19) tells the story of the appearance of Jesus at the Sea of Tiberias. It narrates how Thomas, Nathanael, James and John and two other apostles were together and Peter said, “I am going fishing” and they went with but caught nothing that night. It further reveals that in the morning, Jesus came and asked if they had caught anything. Although they did not recognize him, they said, “No.” He then ordered them to throw their net to the starboard. They did and had a great catch.

John told Peter that it was Jesus and Peter jumped out of the water. Peter and the other apostles went ashore and dragged the net full of fish – inspite of the number, the net was not broken. Jesus invited them to have breakfast. No one dared to ask who he was. He took the bread and fish and gave them. After the meal, he asked Peter thrice if he loved him and thrice, Peter answered in the affirmative. To this, Jesus said to Peter, Feed my Lambs, Look after my Sheep and Feed my Sheep. After that, Jesus indicated the kind of death Peter would suffer by saying when you are young, you go where you want but when you are old, someone else will put a belt round you and take you where you would rather not go.

Types of Obedience  

According to John Grant, there are four main types of obedience:

  1. The Obedience of a Soldier: Here one obeys out of a sense of Duty.
  2. The Obedience of a Servant Or Paid Obedience: Under this kind of obedience, the higher the pay the louder the “Yes Sir!”
  3. The Obedience of a Slave: This is simply obedience through Fear of punishment.
  4. The Obedience of a Lover: Here, the person shows obedience through Love. This is the kind of obedience demonstrated by Jesus, which the apostles talked about in the first reading.

Practical Lessons

  1. Set Your Priorities Right: While the response of Peter and the Apostles, “obedience to God first before obedience to man” charges us to set our priorities right, the threat of the High Priest and Sanhedrin to the Apostles in the first reading reminds contemporary Christians that the enemies of the Cross are never tied of persecuting the Church.
  2. Talk Truth to Power: By accusing the elders and Sanhedrin of hanging Jesus on a tree, Peter teaches pastors of souls that they should be confident in talking truth to power even if it means dying in the process bearing in mind the power of the name of Christ and how it causes confusion in the camp of the enemy.
  3. Embrace True-Repentance: The message that the risen-Jesus is both Leader and Saviour presents us with a model per excellence who cares for our needs and is desirously of building us up and saving us even as it calls us to embrace true-repentance and the message of forgiveness.
  4. Be Obedient: The message of the second reading about the Lamb that was slain who is worthy to receive power, riches, wisdom, strength, honour, glory and blessing, challenges Christians to obediently serve and worship God alone.
  5. Be Proud of God’s Church: By asking Peter thrice if he loved him, Jesus wanted him to recant the three times Peter denied him and by tasking him to feed his lambs, he presented Peter as the first Pope of his Church (Cf. Matthew 18:18; 18:16) who is the Vicar of Christ on earth under whose watch we are charged to respect and protect the Church through true-discipleship.

Summary Lines

  1. The first reading recounts how the High Priest demanded an explanation of the apostles about saturating Jerusalem with their preaching and putting the guilt of Jesus’ death on them.
  2. In the second reading St. John sees the vision of numberless angels shouting: “The Lamb that was sacrificed is worthy to be given power…”
  3. To the One who is sitting on the throne and to the Lamb, be all praise, honour, glory and power, forever and ever.
  4. The gospel tells the story of the appearance of Jesus at the Sea of Tiberias.
  5. Jesus said to Peter, Feed my Lambs, Look after my Sheep and Feed my Sheep.

Conclusion

As witnesses to the resurrection of Christ, we are urged to always consider obedience first to God before man. Civil and religious authorities, bosses, masters, teachers, parents and guardians are called upon to ensure that freedom of religion, as enshrined in Section 38 subsection 1 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, is respected. Children and servants have the right to worship. It behoves all adults and well-meaning individuals to ensure that people are allowed to express their faith without qualms. Obeying authorities is key but this should not take the place of God. As we obey God first, may he add every other thing to us. As Catholics, today’s liturgy assures that we are in the right boat sailing towards our eternal destiny. Happy New Month! 

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