Fifth Sunday of Easter (A)


The Holy Trinity - by BALEN, Hendrick van - from Sint-Jacobskerk, Antwerp
'Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me'. (John 14)

 

Acts 6:1-7

In those days, as the number of disciples grew, the ones who spoke Greek complained that their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food, as compared with the widows of those who spoke Hebrew. The Twelve assembled the community of the disciples and said, "It is not right for us to neglect the Word of God in order to wait on the tables.

Look around among your own number, brothers, for seven men acknowledged to be deeply spiritual and prudent, and we shall appoint them to this task. This will permit us to concentrate on prayer and the ministry of the word". The proposal was unanimously accepted by the community.

Following this they selected Stephen, a man filled with faith and a Holy Spirit; Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolaus of Antioch, who had been a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles, who first prayed over them and then imposed hands on them.

The word of God continued to spread, while at the same time the number of the disciples in Jerusalem enormously increased. There were many priests among those who embraced the faith.

1Peter 2:4-9

Come to the Lord, a living stone, rejected by men but approved, nonetheless, and precious in God's eyes. You too are living stones, built as an edifice of spirit, into a holy priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For Scripture has it:

"See, I am laying a Cornerstone in Zion, an approved Stone, and precious. He who puts his faith in It shall not be shaken."

The Stone is of value for you who have faith. For those without faith, it is rather, "A Stone which the builders rejected that became a Cornerstone". It is likewise "an obstacle and a stumbling stone". Those who stumble and fall are the disbelievers in God's word; It belongs to their destiny to do so. You, however, are "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a people He claims for His own to proclaim the glorious works" of the One Who called you from darkness into His marvelous light.

John 14:1-12

Jesus said to His disciples: "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Have faith in God and faith in Me. In My Father's house there are many dwelling places; otherwise, how could I have told you that I was going to prepare a place for you? I am indeed going to prepare a place for you, and then I shall come back to take you with Me, that where I am you also may be. You know the way that leads where I go".

"Lord", said Thomas, "we do not know where You are going. How can we know the way"? Jesus told him: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. If you really knew Me, you would know My Father also. From this point on you know Him; you have seen Him".

"Lord", Philip said to Him, "show us the Father and that will be enough for us". "Philip", Jesus replied, "after I have been with you all this time, you still do not know Me"? Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The words I speak are not spoken of Myself; it is the Father Who lives in Me accomplishing His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me, or else, believe because of the works I do. I solemnly assure you, the man who has faith in Me will do the works I do, and greater far than these. Why? Because I go to the Father".

 

Fifth Sunday of Easter (A)

by Father Charles Irvin, M.Div, J.D.

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The Last Supper -
by Daniele CRESPI -
from Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan
 

It’s 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. It’s amazing to me that even though Jesus had made such strong reference to what was about to happen, the Disciples didn’t fully comprehend. They didn’t 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 didn’t 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 didn’t 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 don’t get the sense that they are all that concerned about Jesus. We don’t 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 don’t 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. It’s 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 it’s a message for everyone. The Disciples were nervous because Jesus wasn’t 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, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Don’t be afraid. Relax. Take it easy. It’s going to be all right”. I don’t 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.gods_hands.jpg (573086 bytes) It’s the place of the Rock. Jesus wants us to be standing on something so solid, so sure, that when things don’t go very well around us, we’re 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. It’s amazing how these words can be just words. We can hear the words, “Don’t be afraid. I’m 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 God’s Hands. If I knew as much as He knew, I would embrace exactly what is unfolding in my life right now, knowing that somehow it’s the best possible thing that could happen right now. That’s 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 don’t forget that I am going to come back”.

It’s 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 hasn’t happened for 2,000 years. It may happen tomorrow. It may not happen for another Million Years. We don’t 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 we’re not in this particular place with no place to go after our time on earth. I’m still amazed because I’ve grown up as a Catholic, as a Christian, and I’ve always heard this and believed this. I’m 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 don’t 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 — holy_spirit_gold.jpg (17261 bytes)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”, He’s 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. It’s 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 weren’t 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, it’s one thing to say, “Let’s 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 Church’s 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. That’s 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 doesn’t 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.

 

Vatican, 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 prayer:

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 presence.

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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