John 21:1-19, Third Sunday of Easter
The worst thing about religious life is being far from family. But the best thing about religious is being far from family—because when I visit, they share with me deep-down things that they’d normally keep to themselves if I were with them all the time. I was in Davao last week and sat with my dad for a heart-to-heart.
Dad is 79, relatively healthy, still shows up at the law office everyday. He now wonders though if he should finally stop going—but #1, he loves to get his brain working, & #2, he needs to still support my youngest brother, Jonathan, and his family who live with him. Jonathan’s always been jobless. But dad never had the heart to whip his dear bunso into shape…you know the whole story. There’s a Jonathan in almost every family I know. Anyway, it hurt to listen to dad speak his heart. By now, he should really be resting and enjoying the fruits of his labor. But he said: “You know, anak, the last thing I worry about at night and the first thing I worry about in the morning—is what will happen to Jonathan and his family when I’m gone.” You see, sisters and brothers, when we were growing up, whenever dad and mom came home from work, the first question they always asked the kasambahay was, “Kumain na ba ang mga bata?” When we grew older, that was also the first question they asked when we got home, “Kumain na ba kayo?” And that was the last question they asked before we stepped out of the house, “Saan kayo kakain?” So when dad said that Jonathan and his family were his last worry at night and his first the next day, I knew he was terrified of his loved ones going hungry when he is gone.
I don’t know what you think about this, but I have a feeling that when dad finally joins mom in heaven in their “resurrection”—I bet they will continue worrying in some way, shape, or form—about their loved ones going hungry. They will have all the time to pray for us in their resurrection, yes. But because their love will be so much more intense then, I have a feeling that mom and dad will continue to be concerned about their beloved bunso and his family going hungry.
When Jesus rose from the dead, you’d think the last thing he’d worry about was whether or not Peter loved him, and even less, if his friends would go hungry. But isn’t it fascinating that in several Easter appearances, Jesus eats with his friends? Even in the resurrection, he has this thing about food. He breaks bread with them in Emmaus. He asks from something to eat the first time he shows up at the hiding place. And today, he even cooks breakfast…while his friends paddle in from their tawdry efforts at picking up from where they left off as fishermen, before Jesus turned out to be the biggest and worst disappointment of their lives. We often remember the Lord’s question: “Do you love me, do you love me, do you love me?” We often forget his even deeper concern: “Feed my lambs. Tend my sheep. Feed my sheep.” But you who are parents just like my dad, I know that you understand this better than anyone, that “I love you very much” means “I will make sure no one ever goes hungry in this family, even if I myself have to go hungry doing it.” It’s the very same concern Risen Jesus has: that his beloved are nourished and fed and cared for. It was his deepest concern in his earthly life. It was still his concern in his resurrection. And today, when the Lord hears Peter say, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you,” he wishes for him to mean, “Yes, Lord, we will try to never let anyone you love go hungry.”
I just suddenly remember, gosh, all the money spent for presidential campaigns, all those dollars gambled and laundered, all the billions battened from the toil of honest citizens…on the one hand— and on the other, the hungry farmers mauled and massacred in Kidapawan nine days ago. Please indulge me in this very short thought, but I think there is no way to justify shooting at the poor, especially when they’re starving. No way.
Our Risen Lord has a lot of hungers to still worry about, hasn’t he? Unlike my dad who might be partly to blame for his anxiety over his bunso because he didn’t quote-unquote, “teach him how to fish,” it’s not God’s fault that so many of his beloved are hungry. Even in the Lord’s Risen Self, I bet he agonizes about us and keeps asking, “Do you love me?” And we swear, “Yes.” And then, he says three times, making sure we don’t forget, “Feed my lambs, tend my sheep, feed them;” three times; so that we will remember, that when we say, “Yes, Lord, we love you, we love you, you know that we love you,” we want for it to mean what the Lord wants to hear: “Yes, Lord, we will try to make sure that loving you means never letting anyone you love go hungry…even if we go hungry doing so.”