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Thought for the weekend: Faithful and courageous

Fr Patrick McCafferty, Parish of Kilmore and Killyleagh, Co Down

Published 09/04/2016

In the days after the celebration of Easter, Christians lovingly contemplate the episodes, in the Gospel narratives, when the risen Lord meets his disciples, encouraging them and giving them further instructions.

This Sunday we hear about the meeting of Jesus with seven of His disciples at the Sea of Galilee (John 21:1-19). The risen Christ comes to the disciples, on this occasion, when they are in the midst of mundane activities - in this case, fishing.

Gradually, as the encounter unfolds, they are confirmed in their being sent forth on mission. Peter, in particular, is singled out. Jesus asks him three times: "Do you love me? Do you love me more than these others do?"

The love that Jesus seeks from Peter and from all His faithful followers is 'agape' - love that gives totally and willingly of itself, love that holds nothing back, love that follows the one who is loved, with selfless devotion.

In the other scriptures this weekend, the disciples are seen busily employed, at their new task, given them by the Lord: they are fearlessly preaching the good news and winning people over to the new way of life, characterised by self-sacrificing love (Acts 5:27-32,40-41).

The early disciples are ministering in the midst of a hostile world which wants to destroy the truth they proclaim. Many modern Christians find themselves similarly at risk in places like Pakistan, Syria, Iraq, Nigeria, Yemen - to name but some.

The gospel of love cannot be silenced by ridicule, threat, imprisonment, torture or martyrdom. Opposition trains the followers of Jesus to be more firmly committed to his cause. As Tertullian wrote in the second century: "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church."

On March 4, four nuns of Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity were martyred in Yemen - Sr Anselm, Sr Reginette, Sr Judith and Sr Marguerite. Father Tom Uzhunnalil, who served the poor with them, was kidnapped and is still missing.

From their faith and courage, the Lord will strengthen his Church, leading through trials and sufferings here on earth, to the heavenly sanctuary where we shall render "all praise, honour, glory and power, for ever and ever" (Rev 5:11-14).

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