back to top
Saturday, May 25, 2024
17.9 C

Mercy and faithfulness on the shores of Tiberias

Most read

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio, circa 1601-1602. Omage: Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain
The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio, circa 1601-1602. Omage: Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

In an Easter sermon, St John Chrysostom preached, “Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again, for forgiveness has risen from the grave.”

It is not true that Christianity is too hard to believe. For us who struggle with accepting that God loves us, even when we sin shamefully, it can almost seem too good to believe!

We might ask, “How can God love me despite all the terrible things I’ve done?”

- Advertisement -

This deception from the devil and our own high self-expectations may even drive us to despair, like Judas, abandoning all hope that we are good enough for such a good God.

But this is not the way that Jesus looks at us, even if we insist on looking at ourselves this way.

Our Lord Jesus is so kind, so tender and merciful to sinners. In John’s Gospel, on the 4th Sunday after the Resurrection in the Maronite Church, he stands on the shores of the Sea of Tiberias and invites his disciples to break bread with him.

The last time he shared a meal with them, they abandoned him to be captured and arrested (Mt. 26:47).

What a wonderful glimpse into the heart of our Saviour! He washed the feet of his timid disciples. He offered Judas, his betrayer, a morsel of his precious body in the Eucharist on his final night.

He calls himself the Good Shepherd because he will not allow anyone to snatch his sheep from his hand, and he promises these wayward sheep eternal life (Jn. 10:28).

What a joy it is, then, to gaze into the empty tomb with Mary Magdalene, Peter and John.

All despair and desolation is dispelled by its witness. Through it, we see that nothing could finally separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 8:39).

Not even the unjust suffering and death of the Son of God could plead the case for despairing that we are not worthy of our loving Father.

Rather, it is a proof that God the Father would not even spare his own Son to prove his eternal and undying love for his children.

I take so much joy and hope out of St John’s account of this meeting on the shores of Tiberias. Peter, who betrayed his master, sprung himself into the sea and swam to meet the Lord who had appeared on the shore.

In his eagerness to greet the risen Lord, he would not even wait for John and his companions to haul in the miraculous catch of fish that Jesus had guided them to.

This is humble confidence. This is embracing the forgiveness that has risen from the grave. Imagine the strides we could make in holiness if we learned to run back to Jesus after every fall! If we sprung into the depths of Christ’s mercy!

It is wonderful how the Church reminds us constantly of the mercy of God in the beautiful, diverse liturgies of our Catholic faith.

In the Maronite Divine Liturgy, after the opening prayer, incense is offered while the priest (or someone appointed by him) recites the prayers of forgiveness unique to each liturgical celebration.

Known as the ‘Hoosoyo’ (in Syriac, ‘mercy’), these prayers ask God’s mercy to purify us so that we may celebrate the Holy Mysteries with purity after confessing our unworthiness.

Interestingly, Hoosoyo is the same Syriac word used for the ‘mercy seat’ on the ark of the covenant where the presence of God hovered in the Old Testament.

Once a year in the Jewish calendar, on the feast of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), the high priest would enter the Holy of Holies and offer incense and sacrifice for the sins of his people.

Each time the Maronite liturgy is celebrated, this ancient feast is mirrored when the priest offers incense and prayers to God for the sins of his flock.

In the Sacred Liturgy, we see the mercies of God throughout the ages and receive them in the present.

If he has been faithful to his people since the very beginning, why should we doubt his faithfulness towards us now? Take refuge in his wounds and let him heal you.

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -