SUMMITING TO THE LORDSHIP OF THE RISEN CHRIST


SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ ACTS 4:1-12; PS 118:1-2,4,22-27; JOHN 21:1-14 ]

This is the stone rejected by you the builders, but which has proved to be the keystone. For all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved.” This was what St Peter said to the rulers and elders of Israel.  How could Peter find such great courage to make such a statement in front of such influential, powerful and prominent people?  Indeed, the next verse we read, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus.” (Acts 4:13)

In the face of religious pluralism, how many of us would be ready to make this claim in front of those whose beliefs differ from ours or have no religious belief at all?  We would be accused of being triumphalistic and intolerant of other religions. It makes Christianity so exclusive that no compromises could be tolerated.  Indeed, Christianity, when making this audacious claim about Jesus as the Lord and unique savior of all of humanity, puts herself in collision with the rest of the world.  We are therefore caught in a dilemma.  We all do not desire to hurt the feelings of those who do not subscribe to our belief.  Yet, to deny this claim of the universal Lordship of Christ would be being unfaithful to the Christ and the scriptures. Whilst we want to be accommodating we cannot compromise our belief.  This would betray who we are and what and whom we believe in.

So, it is important to understand the background for the Christian’s claims about Jesus.  “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”  (Acts 10:38) Jesus was indeed a good man.  He performed miracles, healed the sick, delivered those who were possessed and oppressed, welcomed sinners, and taught us the compassion and forgiveness of His Father.  But at the same time, by so doing, His words and actions were implicit claims that He was acting on behalf of God.  “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves.”  (Jn 14:10f)

In the light of what Jesus did when He was on earth, St Peter showed the continuity between what Jesus did and what He was now doing.   Filled with the Holy Spirit, he said, “Rulers of the people, and elders! If you are questioning us today about an act of kindness to a cripple, and asking us how he was healed, then I am glad to tell you all, and would indeed be glad to tell the whole people of Israel, that it was by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the one you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by this name and by no other that this man is able to stand up perfectly healthy, here in your presence today. This is the stone rejected by you the builders, but which has proved to be the keystone.”  Indeed, it was the same Jesus that they put to death that healed the cripple because He is alive and not dead.  He has been raised!  Peter made it clear that it was not by his power that he cured the man.  It was Jesus, the one whom they crucified and is now Lord by His resurrection.

Undeniably, the resurrection proves and vindicates all that Jesus said and did and the implicit claims of His divinity and sonship.   That He has been raised from the dead shows that the Father endorsed all that Jesus said and did.  The resurrection was the divine seal the Father set on the life, work and ministry of Jesus.  If that were so, then the conclusion is, “For all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved.”  Otherwise, who could He be other than what He claimed?

This is not the case for other religions because no religion has ever claimed that their founder is God.  No religion has ever made the bold claim that their founder is alive and has been raised from the dead.  It is true that some religions might also make absolute claims that their religion is the right one and their scriptures are divinely inspired and free from errors as well.  But no religion has come close to declaring that their founder is alive and that He is God, as does Christianity.

If Jesus is Lord, then we are called to submit to His Lordship alone.  This is what the gospel is asking of us.  The only reason why we should obey Christ is because He is the Lord.  In the first instance, we are told how the Lord reached out to the disciples.  “Jesus called out, ‘Have you caught anything, friends?’ And when they answered, ‘No’, he said, ‘Throw the net out to starboard and you’ll find something.’ So they dropped the net, and there were so many fish that they could not haul it in.”  The disciples obeyed the Lord and great things happened.

Obedience is the proper response to the Lord’s call.  Unlike earlier on at the onset of Jesus’ ministry when Peter reluctantly put down the nets for a catch, this time, St Peter did not question the Lord and surrendered in faith without asking or understanding, even though he still was not able to recognize the Lord.  But when he did, “the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord’. At these words ‘It is the Lord,’ Simon Peter, who had practically nothing on, wrapped his cloak round him and jumped into the water.”  We too cannot recognize Jesus is Lord unless we are willing to obey and surrender at His word.  Only in the act of obedience, can we come to know that Jesus is Lord.  Without surrendering in faith, we can continue discussing and talking about the truth of Jesus, but we will end up confused or skeptical.

Indeed, St Peter and St John could heal the cripple only in the name of the Lord.  Having faith in Jesus is the cause of the healing miracle.  This is what St Paul later wrote, “Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith – to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever! Amen.”  (Rom 16:25-27)

Obedience means that we are called to cooperate with the Lord in liberating men and women from sin and ignorance so that they could find salvation.   Again, this was what the Lord said, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.’ Simon Peter went aboard and dragged the net to the shore, full of big fish, one hundred and fifty-three of them; and in spite of there being so many the net was not broken.”   We are called to surrender in obedience to the Lord and if we are docile to the work of His Holy Spirit, He would work wonders for us by bringing in a great harvest for us as He did in the miracle of the fish.  All the nations would come to know the Lord as symbolized by the 153 fish that Peter caught.  Indeed, we read in the first reading that “many of those who had listened to their message became believers, the total number of whom had now risen to something like five thousand.”

Finally, obedience is but an invitation to fellowship with the Lord.  Only those who are in communion with Him can obey, sharing His mind and heart.  Hence, the final instruction to the disciples was, “‘Come and have breakfast.’ None of the disciples was bold enough to ask, ‘Who are you?’ they knew quite well that it was the Lord. Jesus then stepped forward, took the bread and gave it to them, and the same with the fish.”  In celebrating the Eucharist, they came to encounter the Risen Lord even more.   We too are called to encounter the Lord in the Eucharist.  Having a meal with Jesus is more than just consuming the Eucharistic Host but to have fellowship with Him by praying and worshipping Him at mass, listening to the Word of God spoken to us, confessing our faith in Him, wanting to share the joy of His love for us with others.

How, then, can we proclaim His Lordship and yet not denigrate other religionsWe must take a page from St Peter who also wrote to advise us to be humble in our profession of our faith.  “Now who will harm you if you are eager to do what is good?  But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence.”  (1 Pt 3:13-15)  And St Paul urges us to respect and pray for those in government.  “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.  This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all – this was attested at the right time.”  (1 Tim 2:1-5)


Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved


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