Fr. Scott Lewis is an associate professor of New Testament at Regis College, a founding member of the Toronto School of Theology.

He is a past president of the Canadian Catholic Biblical Association.

Fifth Sunday of Easter (Year C) April 28 (Acts 14:21-27; Psalm 145; Revelation 21:1-5; John 13:1, 31-33, 34-35)

Becoming a follower of Jesus Christ was not an easy task in the first century. It often involved the loss of friends, the estrangement of family and alienation from one’s culture. Occasionally violent persecution was thrown in.

True faith withstands all


Fourth Sunday of Easter (Year C) April 21 (Acts 13:14, 43-52; Psalm 100; Revelation 7:9, 14-17; John 10:27-30)

We are called to be witnesses to God’s kingdom


Third Sunday of Easter (Year C) April 14 (Acts 5:28-32, 40-41; Psalm 30; Revelation 5:11-14; John 21:1-19)

It is well known that dictatorial or totalitarian regimes rule by fear. The oppressed know that they must keep silent at the least and maybe even mouth the party line. The consequences for not doing so are fearsome. Even so-called democratic cultures and societies also use a form of fear to coerce people — the fear of ridicule, exclusion or labelling. The message is clear: do not challenge the status quo or the powers that be, even if they are somewhat benign.

The Resurrection transformed our world


Resurrection of the Lord (Year C) March 31 (Acts 10:34. 37-43; Psalm 118; Colossians 3:1-4; John 20:1-18)

If the Easter event occurred in our own day, how would the news be transmitted? We can imagine media blitzes, live interviews, endless analysis by “talking heads” and replay after replay. We would probably tire of the story, and as with most media events, it would soon be supplanted by something more exciting (at least for a time). Media can give us immediacy and a lot of “facts” but it often lacks sincerity, passion and the authenticity of one human heart speaking to another.

In our life’s journey we are called to compassion, love


Passion Sunday (Year C) March 24 (Isaiah 50:4-7; Psalm 22; Philippians 2:6-11; Luke 22:14-23:56)

Let those without sin choose the scapegoat


Fifth Sunday of Lent (Year C) March 17 (Isaiah 43:16-21; Psalm 126; Philippians 3:8-14; John 8:1-11)

Human memory can be very faulty when it comes to remembering the great things God has done for us. We need to be constantly reminded. The psalm’s refrain of “The Lord has done great things for us” is but one example of how the Scriptures continually proclaimed God’s past mercies and blessings.

Wisdom must be learned the hard way


Fourth Sunday of Lent (Year C) March 10 (Joshua 5:9, 10-12; Psalm 34; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Luke 15:1-3, 11-32)

Disgrace does not give up easily. Those who have experienced disgrace often struggle for the rest of their lives to achieve some sort of restoration of honour and self-respect. These attempts are not always successful.

God coaxes us on our spiritual path


Third Sunday of Lent (Year C) March 3 (Exodus 3:1-8, 13-15; Psalm 103; 1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12; Luke 13:1-9)

God has always been invoked by many names and has carried many labels. But when God had the opportunity to reveal a name, label or doctrine it was a different story.

The faithful know God is in charge


The faith-filled understand that life has purpose, meaning

Second Sunday of Lent (Year C) Feb. 24 (Genesis 15:5-12, 17-18; Psalm 27; Philippians 3:17-4:1; Luke 9:28-36)

The Lord won’t let you down


First Sunday of Lent (Year C) Feb. 17 (Deuteronomy 26:4-10; Psalm 91; Romans 10:8-13; Luke 4:1-13)

The person you are is from God’s grace


Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C) Feb. 10 (Isaiah 6:1-2, 3-8; Psalm 138; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Luke 5:1-11)

The shame and fear felt by Adam and Eve in the Eden story is still with us. The sense of separation and unworthiness led them to hide from God’s presence. Most people still respond in similar ways — we would be aghast if we knew that we were about to be in God’s presence even if it didn’t involve death.

Isaiah found himself — in an inner vision rather than a physical journey — in the heavenly court. The experience was overwhelming and terrifying. There was a long tradition that no one could see God and live so Isaiah was sure that he was done for. The seraphs chanted “Holy, holy, holy” in adoration and praise, which is the source of the Sanctus in the liturgy. To say something was holy, however, meant that it was set apart from the arena of normal human activity and of the utmost purity. In ancient Israel the holy was approached with a fair amount of awe and dread. Wide and deep indeed was the gulf between God and human. Isaiah was unwilling to speak, especially in a prophetic manner, for he was convinced of his own sinfulness — the words themselves would be affected. The action of the seraph symbolized what God does with those whom God calls — the purifying hot coal was “touched” to Isaiah’s lips in order to cleanse him of sin and unworthiness. It was nothing that Isaiah did; in fact, there was nothing that he could have done on his own. The grip of fear and shame fell away and he was able to respond to God’s mission with a hearty “Here I am Lord, send me!”

The fear and guilt we feel before God is of our own making — we fear judgment and punishment. God is not interested in that but wants to transform, heal and empower all who are willing to respond. We come to God as we are and surrender; God does the rest. Praising God with the seraphs takes our mind off the self and focuses it where it belongs: on God.

Paul reminded the Corinthian community of the message in which they had first believed and begged them not to stray from it. These few verses represent the earliest Christian “creed.” The message was stark and simple. Jesus died for our sins, was buried, rose again in fulfilment of the Scriptures and appeared to many of His followers. There was no complicated theology, just the joyous proclamation that Jesus was alive again and that His life and death had momentous consequences for undeserving humanity. It was this gracious kindness that enabled Paul to rise above his own pain and regret over his years as persecutor-in-chief of the Christian movement and become its greatest apostle. Paul acknowledged that the good that he had done and the person he had become was purely God’s grace. The only fitting response for Paul — and us — is gratitude and passing it forward.

Jesus did so many things well, but what did He know about fishing? This question might have been on the minds of Peter and his friends as Jesus told them to put down their nets again. They tried again, this time with divine guidance rather than their own, and not only did they catch fish, but it was a huge haul. Peter was overcome and fell at the feet of Jesus, begging Him to just go away. Peter was made acutely aware of his flaws and sinfulness and felt unworthy to be in Jesus’ presence. Jesus would not hear of it — with the oft-repeated admonition to let go of fear, He raised him up and gave him a new mission. He was to be a fisher of people — far more difficult!

Fishing was a biblical apocalyptic end-time symbol, so its use here signaled that with the coming of Jesus the ingathering of souls for God had begun. Patience is essential. One cannot be discouraged at an empty net or hook but be willing to try over and over again at God’s direction.

The Lord invites us to continue this holy work of reconciling souls to God. We are to rely on the power and compassion of God rather than allowing our insecurity, preconceptions and weaknesses to paralyse us.