Another Divine Mercy Sunday, another empty church. I am always disheartened to see so many empty pews after the standing room only Easter Mass. Where did everyone go? So much for Easter transforming hearts and minds right?
Seeing all those empty pews reminds me of this reading from John’s Gospel. One of the first things Peter did after Christ’s death was go fishing. In the Gospel, he says it almost casually — “I am going fishing” (John 21:3). After the drama that he had just encountered, Peter was looking to return to something comfortable and familiar. It’s almost like he was thinking that being one of Jesus’s apostles was great, but that was now something in his past. Maybe he saw it like we see our teenage or college years — a phase that we grew out of. Peter was picking up his life where he left off before meeting Jesus — as a fisherman.
Don’t we all have a bit of Peter in our hearts? We fasted and sacrificed during Lent and celebrated on Easter Sunday. For 40+ days our hearts were focus on making room for Christ. And then what do we do? Go to work the next day and do the same things we’ve always done as if Easter was just another day on the calendar. Do you even recall what the priest said in his Easter homily? Do you feel fundamentally changed? Probably not. But you seem to be in good company since it seems that many of the apostles initially treated their time with Jesus like it was a passing fad. It had its moments and even some promise, but now it was time to get back to reality.
When I find myself sliding back into routine, I meditate on the Fourth Joyful Mystery of the rosary — Jesus’ Presentation in the Temple. I recall how the Holy Spirit promised St. Simeon that he would not die until seeing the chosen one. Imagine how surprised, joyful, and maybe even a little scared Simeon must have felt upon hearing this news. Maybe we felt a similar passion and joy towards our faith on Easter Sunday. Now imagine how many years Simeon must have waited for that promise to be fulfilled. The Bible doesn’t give an exact count, but all depictions of Simeon show him as an elderly man. Who would have blamed him if he started to doubt that promise and believed his time would be better spent on something other than his faith? But did he lose hope or did he let any doubt affect his faith in God’s plan for him?
Like St. Simeon, remaining devout to the end of his life, so too must we be devout in our faith long after the immediate joy and glory of Easter fades. Many times our faith feels challenging like Christ’s last human days on Good Friday and not the celebration of Easter. But we pray the rosary and focus on imitating those who remained steadfast even in the absence of signs, wonders, and even joy. We remember St. Mother Teresa who fought a seemingly hopeless battle of helping the poor. Or we draw inspiration from the martyrs who died without seemingly changing anyone’s heart towards Jesus Christ. When we pray the rosary, we pray for the faith and hope that Jesus hears our prayers and does answer them even when it seems like we are wasting our time.
Peter may have thought that his time as Jesus’ apostle was in vain. He may have thought that he would just return to being a fisherman instead of the fisher of men that Jesus promised. But of course we know that God had a grander plan for St. Peter than just being Jesus’ apostle in Jesus’ earthly life. And so we pray that we also have the faith, courage, and fortitude to understand that God has a grander plan for all of us even when it seems like our prayers go unheard.