Fifth Sunday of Easter (A)
by Father Charles Irvin, M.Div, J.D.
The Last Supper -
by Daniele CRESPI -
from Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan
Its important for me to always know the setting of a Scripture story so I can enter more
fully into its mood and dig more deeply into its meaning. The words we hear today the words Jesus
spoke to His Disciples were spoken at a special moment. The words found in the Gospel (John 14:1-12)
were spoken at the Last Supper. Its amazing to me that even though Jesus had made such strong reference
to what was about to happen, the Disciples didnt fully comprehend. They didnt understand. That lack of total comprehension is
one of the great themes of the relationship between Jesus and the people He
spent time with even though Jesus sought to explain everything, they didnt fully understand. It
was only after Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, the Power
that comes into our lives to enable us to Understand, that they began to fully grasp the teaching. That
didnt stop Jesus from working as hard as He could to help the Disciples
see. In this particular situation, we see Jesus has already told the Disciples that He
must return to Jerusalem to give Himself over to His
enemies. There, He would undergo His Passion,
Suffering and Dying. Even though Jesus has explained
this to His Disciples, we dont get the sense that they are all that concerned about
Jesus. We dont hear the Disciples say, Are You okay? How are You going to do this? Are You
sure this is the right thing to do? Maybe the Disciples did so, but we certainly dont get this sense from the
Gospel Reading. Instead, the Disciples ask, What is going to happen to us? This is simply a
wonderful way for John to remind us that fundamentally we all have the same experience. Its part of our Human
Nature, and it is difficult to get past our own self-concern. We worry
first about what is going to happen to us. And when we know that everything is going to be okay for us, then we are able to be concerned
about the needs of others.
Jesus speaks very crucial words to the Disciples at the time He is
going to be separated from them. Jesus was obviously the Rock Who held them
together and gave them direction. The Disciples had great arguments over what Jesus really meant; the message
had not become really clear to them. They must have had many arguments and discussions among themselves, always awaiting the time when
Jesus would be with them again to answer all of their questions: What did You
mean when You said this? What did You mean when You did that? Jesus gives very important
information to the Disciples, and its a message for everyone. The Disciples were nervous because
Jesus wasnt going to be around to solve their problems. But, also, the
environment in which the Disciples were living was anything but receptive. Jesus was an
Outcast. Jesus was the Controversial Figure. To be connected to
the Calming Influence of that Controversial Figure must have given the Disciples great Strength. To know
that Jesus was going to be gone and that they would be left alone in this Hostile
Environment with Religious Leaders who were saying, What are you doing, paying attention to this
Man? would obviously make the Disciples very nervous. Jesus,
understanding fully the Disciples human need, tries to reach out and give them words of Encouragement
and Hope. I love the opening line, Dont let your hearts be troubled.
Dont be afraid. Relax. Take it easy. Its going to be all right. I dont know what it is about us
humans, but unless there is a certain security about the things unfolding in my life, unless I have a certain
Sense of Order or that I am planted on something solid and that I am going to make it, I always tend to get Extremely
Nervous and Scared. I think we all share that feeling as humans.
Jesus invites us to enter into a World that is secure, that has very little to do with what is
happening around us. We might describe this World as The Rock.
Its the place of the Rock. Jesus wants us to be standing on something so
solid, so sure, that when things dont go very well around us, were not really Scared. Listen to
what Jesus says to us: I want you to understand that you have to trust in Me.
You have to have faith in what I am saying to you. That is obviously the bottom line. Its amazing how these words
can be just words. We can hear the words, Dont be afraid. Im there. Trust in Me,
and not really believe them. A favorite expression of mine, one that I try to make a part of my daily life, is so clearly stated both directly
and indirectly in Scripture: Everything is in Gods Hands. If I knew as much
as He knew, I would embrace exactly what is unfolding in my life right now, knowing that somehow its the
best possible thing that could happen right now. Thats what we believe, if God is really in charge. If
the Universe is simply a collection of random, unrelated experiences, and we are just having to dodge the Negative
Things and hoping we will get through this Battle Zone, then we have reason to be
Terrified. If we feel there is no way to control the people shooting at us, then we should be Afraid. But
if God really is in charge and He says He
is then somehow we have to embrace things as they are with the conviction that if we knew as much as God
knows, we would definitely say, This is what I want. Jesus
goes on to say, I want you to really trust in this and believe in it with Me. What I am doing is getting ready
to leave you. I am going to prepare a place for you, but dont forget that I am going to come back.
Its no wonder the Disciples, in their beginning experience of the Church, always had one eye on the
Heavens awaiting the return of Jesus and the other eye on their Work. Jesus did say,
I am coming back. He meant the Second
Coming. It hasnt happened for 2,000 years. It may happen tomorrow. It may not happen for another
Million Years. We dont know. But Jesus is coming back to claim it all.
Jesus is also going to prepare a place, which is more interesting.
It means that as we move through the period of time we have on this earth, we have the conviction that were not in this particular place
with no place to go after our time on earth. Im still amazed because Ive grown up as a Catholic, as a
Christian, and Ive always heard this and believed this. Im amazed when I find people who believe there is
nothing after this life. If I really felt that way, I might deal with this life very differently. I might be very much more interested in having
a better time. I might be a lot less Patient with those days that dont seem to be much fun. I might become a
lot more Greedy, in terms of getting the most out of these days. We are supposed to savor and enjoy each day
but the intensity might be greater if I thought that this was all there is. Jesus does say very clearly,
There is something other than this. We have a place. This place is like a house, like a mansion,
a place where we can come and dwell. I love the teaching that we dwell with those we have shared our lives with. Jesus
goes on to say that He is sending someone to us. He will send us the
Spirit. That Gift is Wonderful because of where the Disciples
are right now unsure and unclear about Jesus Teaching. The Spirit,
also called the Paraclete a word meaning lawyer
is there to Guide us and make sure we are following the path we are called to follow.
This great Gift and Power is given to us so that we can literally
Believe, Hope, and Trust. We know what we
Trust and Believe in. Not only is Jesus coming back, but
He is sending the Spirit. In this Mysterious indwelling
Spirit, we find the Trinity. Ultimately, God then dwells
within us God the Father, God the Son and God the Spirit.
We have the Creative Force within us, the Redeeming Force within us, the
Empowering Force within us. Somehow, this image of a Multi-Faceted God is dwelling inside
of us. Jesus says that fundamentally, this is what you have been looking at. We have been looking at what we are supposed
to be. What we see is not just Jesus, but the Way. Jesus
was wonderful in His Teaching, but He was also more effective in just speaking about the way
people are supposed to be. When Jesus says, I am the way and the truth and the
life, Hes saying that His fundamental reason for coming into the
world is so that we will have Life. The way we will possess Life is by embracing the Truth. The
Truth is in seeing just what Jesus is: a Human Being, like us, filled with a
Divine Gift. This Divine Gift enables us to effect great change in the world.
Jesus wants us to believe this. Its interesting that the reading from the Acts of the Apostles (6:1-7)
speaks of Dissension within the community. Just a couple of weeks ago, we were reading about a wonderful
Christian community. Everyone was Loving each other. They were
Praying together and singing songs together. They were taking all of their possessions and placing them at the feet of the Disciples.
A wonderful, idyllic setting of community that we all long for! At the beginning of any organization we find this setting and it seems to last
about two hours. All of a sudden, Dissension creeps in. The majority seems to take
care of its own, and the minority feels left out. The Greek converts to Judaism were on the outside. Their widows werent being taken care of.
The decision was to take care of everyone. When the work increased, the ultimate decision of the 12 Disciples was to
free themselves up so that they could be more at Prayer and more connected with God.
They could then preach the Word more effectively. We are reminded that when life gets Frayed
and we are spread too thin, its one thing to say, Lets get working to solve the problem.
At the same time, the most important thing is not to give more attention to solving the Problem but also to
turning to the Rock.
The Rock is mentioned in the reading from 1Peter 2:4-9. The
Rock is Rejected. The Plan of God is Rejected,
but It has become the Cornerstone of our lives. We cling to the teaching that we are radically
connected to a Loving God Who never, ever leaves us alone. He is always there as a
Source of Strength. The Seven New Figures who take on the responsibility of taking care of
the Churchs needs are important, but the most important solution is always turning to the
Rock. Turning to the Heart of the work. Staying connected to the Teachings. Being filled
with the Gift of the Spirit. Recognizing that the promises Jesus has made to the Disciples
are being made to every single one of us. With those promises, all kinds of things can happen. The most important thing is to remember that not that all
the Problems get solved, or all the situations get taken care of, or that all of the work gets done. There is always going
to be work to get done. What is important to remember is that in the process of taking care of things, there is a Peaceful Center
we can reach. When we hang onto that Rock that Peaceful place then the promises
God has made to us are fleshed out. We begin to feel what God is saying to us. We can do what
Jesus did. Jesus gave Himself over to the
Plan. Jesus gave Himself over to what God asked
Him to do, no matter what the cost. Thats what we are asked to do as well. In that process, we find
Peace. When I feel that what I am doing is ultimately my destiny and is bringing Life to others, when I feel that what I am
doing doesnt depend so much on success but depends rather on my being Faithful, then Peace
fills the room. I begin to experience the House that God has created for all of us.
November 12, 2008 (CWNews.com) - Christians should not long for the end of the world, Pope Benedict XVI told his regular weekly
audience on November 12th. But the faithful should pray for the return of Jesus-- even knowing that
His Second Coming presages the end of the world-- because "without the presence of Christ a
truly just and renewed world will never come".
The Holy Father summed up the proper attitude toward the question of the End Times when he concluded his Wednesday audience with a
Come, Lord! Come in Your way, in the ways that You know. Come
where there is injustice and violence. Come into the refuge
camps of Darfur and North Kivu, in so many parts of the world.
Come where drugs dominate. Come also among the rich who have
forgotten You and who live for themselves alone. Come where You
are known. Come in Your way and renew today's world. Come also
into our hearts, that we too may become light of God, Your
The Pope devoted his November 12th audience to an exploration of Saint Paul's teachings on Eschatology. He pointed out that in the
First Letter to the Thessalonians, Saint Paul lays his emphasis on the positive aspect of the End Times, when "we will be with
the Lord forever". But in his Second Letter to the Thessalonians the Apostle brings out the "negative events that
will precede the end", including the period of Apostasy and the rise of the Antichrist.
Christians should face the prospect of the Parousia with a sense of realism, the Pope said. Death and destruction are realities,
but the Light of Christ illuminates all such darkness. "Without Christ the future is dark even today", the Holy Father
noted, adding that "Christians know that the Light of Christ is stronger".
In expectation of the End Times, Christians must "work to ensure this world opens to Christ", the Pope continued. In his
First Letter to the Corinthians, he observed, Saint Paul depicts the Christian community praying for Christ's return: "Maranatha!
Our Lord, come"!
"Of course we do not want the end of the world to come now", the Pope said. But we pray for Christ's return because
"we do want the world of injustice to end, we do want the world to change, the civilization of love to begin, a world of justice
and peace to come, a world without violence and hunger".
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