Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 10, 2020
The words of John’s gospel that I just read are comforting on so many different levels. I want to take a closer look at this text and our life experience and the connections that seem to be present when I prayed with this text this week. We are in the fifth week of Easter. We have been hearing stories of Jesus and his encounters with the disciples after the resurrection. Today our gospel reading takes us back to Holy Thursday, the Passover Meal, the Last Supper.
The context of this gospel reading is simple – the disciples have gathered to celebrate the Passover with Jesus. Jesus has just been warmly welcomed by the people of Jerusalem. They have waved palm branches and celebrated his miracles and now Jesus and the disciples are gathered for the meal. Jesus has communicated to the disciples that his death is at hand. We don’t hear the disciples comforting Jesus, we hear rather Jesus comforting them. The source of his strength is not the knowledge that everything is going to be ‘nice’ – that he will be saved from suffering and death. The source of his strength is his relationship with God – the confidence that he has that he is loved by God – a love that is so strong that even suffering and death has no power to eliminate it. Jesus knows he is loved and that God will take care of things – somehow – even if he does not know how. He has full confidence in God.
It is precisely this confidence that enables him to speak to his disciples and say – do not let your hearts be troubled – trust in God and trust in me. God loves you and whatever takes place cannot overwhelm or dismiss that love. Jesus reminds the disciples that he is about to die – but his death will lead him to be reunited with God and from that place alongside God he will prepare a place for those whom he loves. When it is their turn to die, Jesus will come and take them to their eternal resting place in heaven.
This is way too much for the disciples (Thomas and Philip) and they protest – we don’t know where you are going and we don’t know how to get there and we don’t know the ‘Father’. The thing is they don’t have to know where they are going – they just have to stay close to Jesus and everything will be fine. What they don’t realize is that they already know where they are going – they simply cannot believe that it is true.
Friends, relationships are important – love relationships are important. While we need to work, make breakfast and do the laundry, make money, service the car, plant the garden, take care of the livestock – all of these ordinary tasks are meaningless unless they create, sustain and nurture our relationships with each other and with God. It is our relationships that help us to cope with life – they make good moments great, they make difficult moments bearable and they give us the courage to keep on putting one foot in front of the other.
In our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear how some people are being neglected – pushed to the edges. The marvelous thing is that the community says, ‘this is not right, we need to do something about it!’ And so, several people are chosen and prayed over, they emerge to help the Christian community take care of those who were neglected.
In the second reading, Peter tells the early Christians that God is at work among them – building up a community, a spiritual house. Each of them is a spiritual living stone in the building up of the house. Peter reminds them that each of them is important. He reminds them that they are a “chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people.”
So often we can feel as if we are being left behind, excluded, taken for granted, ignored. We can feel as if we are invisible. Sometimes all those things are true – they are not just feelings – they are really happening – we are in fact being left behind. When they do happen, it is critical that we do two things:
1. Call to mind who we are in God’s eyes
Over and over Sacred Scripture reminds us that we are valued. Today, Jesus says to each of the disciples, ‘Do not let your heart be troubled. I am going to prepare a place for you. I will come and get you when your life is over and I will take you to your place.’ When we doubt that, when it feels like it is not possible Jesus comes back and says, ‘stay close to me,’ the end is clear. Jesus says, ‘I will come and get you.’
2. Do whatever we can to speak up for those who are being left behind.In the first two readings we are reminded we have a mission – leave no one behind. We are good at belittling people, mocking people, bullying people, we have done that as individuals, as communities, as countries and as Church and we still do it. We punish and we exclude people who are different from us. The thing is, Jesus and the early Christian leaders, Paul and Peter and others say, ‘no that is not right - you are to take care of each other. You, all of you together are living stones and you make up a spiritual house. Each of you matters. Without you the house looks different/incomplete. You belong to God – you cannot dismiss each other, punish each other or neglect each other.
Today is Mother’s Day and those of us who have mother’s here shower them with blessings. Those of us who have mothers in heaven we remember them. Those of us who have mothers who have been less than kind and helpful, we grieve, we lament the fact that we did not/do not have a mother who loved us and blessed us.
I began by saying relationships are important – our relationships with each other and our relationship with God. Today, let us remember what God thinks of us. Let us remember those who need us and let us strive to bring life – faith hope and love to all whom we meet. We can do nasty things, spread fake news, belittle others and create hatred or we can create and nurture love.
When this liturgy is over – reach out and share a blessing to the women, the mothers in your life who have nourished you – give thanks for the gift of life and share with them a blessing. When this liturgy is over, spend some time by yourself, calling to mind how God sees you. Hear Jesus say to you once again – ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled, trust in God, trust in me. I am going to prepare a place for you. I will come back and get you.’
Folks, whether we feel loved and welcomed or disliked, excluded and rejected, God’s opinion of us counts. Let us pay attention to what God says. We are chosen and important. Let us stand and let us live in the knowledge that we are loved. Let us in turn create and encourage life in and through all we say and all we do, beginning in our home with our mothers/those women who have loved us as mothers! Let us extend that life to our community, our Church and our world! Christ is risen, he truly is risen! Alleluia, Alleluia. Do not let your hearts be troubled.
Fr. Doug Jeffrey, OMI