10 May 20205 Easter

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
5 Easter
Fifth Sunday of Easter - A Cycle - John 14:1-12

A man passed a funeral parlor. In the window stood a sign "WHY WALK AROUND HALF DEAD WHEN WE CAN BURY YOU FOR FIFTY DOLLARS?" If we are half dead Christians, we should enlist with Jesus. He who said, "I am the Way!" will recharge us with His spiritual cables and get us into the fast lane.

Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hanged in 1945 by the Nazis. Before his execution, he told a fellow prisoner, "This is the beginning of a new life." Said the prisoner, a British officer, "Dietrich knew the WAY he was going."

A poet wrote that you do not know the meaning of a person's life until he is dead. Is that true of everyone? I think not. But it was true of the Christ and His servant, Dietrich. It could be true of us yet.

Today's chapter 14 begins the farewell address of Jesus to His troops. The theme of today's Gospel is to pick up the sagging morale of His followers. Jesus had informed them that one of them would betray Him. The apostles must have gone into shock at the news of a mole among them. Their small world was turning upside down. They needed a spiritual tranquilizer in super milligram range. Christ was offering it to them. He was not done with them yet.

We owe that blunt apostle Thomas much. The Master said, "You know the way to the place where I am going." Thomas, who must have been a hot pistol to handle even for Christ, bought none of it. "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How do we know the way?" Thomas wanted a heavily marked AAA roadmap as well as road flares. His doubts provoked Jesus to say, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life." Just eight words but arguably the most important words spoken in the 5000 years of recorded history.

That line rang like a loud bell in the ears of Thomas and his friends. It still so sounds in the 21st century. Thomas a Kempis wrote in the 15th century, "Without the Way, there is no going. Without the Truth, there is no knowing. Without the Life, there is no living."

Note what the Master did not say. He did not say, "I am a Way, a form of Truth, and a way of Life." (Unknown) He would not support the pick and choose Catholicism which is popular among us. I am speaking of a smorgasbord Gospel. "I'll take the Beatitudes but not the Eucharist." But CS Lewis said, "Christianity is a statement which, if false, is of no importance and, if true, is of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important."

If you're a cafeteria Catholic, you have started your own religion. You'll have competition, though. There is a new religion starting every five days.

What a pity so hard on the heels of Jesus come the Christians. (Annie Dillard) A popular T-shirt reads, "Jesus, save us from your followers."

Christ's remarkable statement was clearly on the record as unqualified. Had it been otherwise, it is unlikely John, today's author, would have recorded the line for posterity. Indeed John might not have stayed around. Evidence shows he could have made a good living as a writer.

Goethe in the 19th century shouted something we can identify with. "When I go to listen to a preacher, I want to hear of his certainties, not of his doubts. Of the latter I have enough of my own."

I was in Boston. I was lost. I asked a man for directions. He confused me. I asked another and he said, "Follow me and I'll show you the way." The man had become my guide. I relaxed. Happily for us, Jesus is our guide. He does not give directions in hundreds of words. Nor does He say, "You can't miss it." Rather, He informs us confidently that He is the way. More to the point, He says, "Follow me. I'll show you the fast way."

Professors have said to us, "I have taught you the truth as I understand it." But no professor was so presumptuous to say, "I am the Truth." None except One and that is the reason we come here today to worship Him. So we pray the 86th Psalm, "Teach me thy way, O Lord, and I will walk in thy truth." Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and Einstein, great thinkers all, were, like us, confused. They sought the truth. But Jesus is the truth. Big difference that.

The University of Rostock in Germany has chiseled above its main entrance for all students to read: "Many theories but one truth."

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
5 Easter
Fifth Sunday of Easter:  Seekers

Today's readings begin with the Twelve dealing with a problem. The problem was that they were being stretched thin. They had a responsibility to proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the world. This would take prayer and meditation on the events they had experienced in Jesus Christ and an intricate study on how these events were prophesied in the Hebrew Scriptures. But the Church had grown tremendously, wonderfully. With this growth came more and more people who needed special care. The reading mentions the widows of the Hellenistic, non-Jews, who were not receiving the daily distribution of food. Perhaps someone needed to organize a way to get food to the Greek areas of the city. And someone needed to take care of the Samaritans, and the Egyptians, the Syrians, etc etc. It was a great problem to have, but it was still a problem. The Twelve needed to devote themselves to prayer and preaching. So they created a new ministry, a ministry of people from the various groups who needed help and entrusted them with the charitable outreach of the Church. These were the first deacons. You will notice Stephen, the first martyr mentioned, as well as a Philip different than the Apostle Philip presented in today's Gospel.

By the way, the first reading also states that even a large group of priests was becoming obedient to the faith. This refers to the Temple priests, although you and I hope that all priests are only concerned with being men of faith. Priests as we know them in the Church are extensions of the Bishops' ministries.

There is another group of priests presented in today's readings. That group consists in all the faithful. In the second reading from the First Letter of Peter, we heard that all who are committed to Christ are de facto priests. The first Pope proclaims, "You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you might announce the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light."

The work of religion is not limited to the ordained. It is the work of all Christians. You embrace this work every time you reach out to others, calling them to join you in worship. You embrace this work when you instruct your children on the truths of the faith, every time you say to them or to anyone, "This is what we must do to be followers of Jesus Christ." The way we live our lives, then, is not imposed on us. It flows from within us, from our own determination to live the life of Christ.

Therefore, Jesus says to Thomas and to us, "I am the way, the truth and the life." Thomas and the Apostle Philip are seekers. They want God in their lives. So do we. We seek, and we find. Our search for God frees us from the shackles of a materialistic society. Our union with Christ frees us to embrace the wonders of a life without limits, the awesome gift of eternity.

Like the Twelve in the first reading, we also have to be careful that we are not stretched thin. We need to make time for prayer and the study of the Word so we can be the priests we are called to be. We need to make a prayer schedule, and we need to keep it. If we do not, then we will find ourselves doing a lot but accomplishing nothing.

“In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places,” the Gospel begins.  There is a room with your name on it and a room with my name on it.  Those rooms are there, waiting for us to move in.  Jesus prepared these rooms for us.  May we prepare ourselves for Him.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
5 Easter
Do Not Let Your Hearts be Troubled
(May 10, 2020)
I offer this homily (and take off my hat) to any brothers who are celebrating Mass or live streaming during this crisis
Bottom line: You have responded to Jesus' invitation - nay, his command: "Do not let your hearts be troubled..."

Happy Mother's Day! We have a special blessing for our moms - this year we will give that blessing in the parking lot.

Jesus has a word for our moms - and for all of us: "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me."

We can have faith in Jesus. He has shown himself absolutely reliable and trustworthy. We've seen this in recent weeks. In his public ministry Jesus gave warnings about his coming passion and he hinted at the resurrection. This mystery coincides with prophecies contained in the Old Testament. For that reason Paul says that Jesus "died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures". Similarly, in accordance with the scriptures, he rose from the dead. The first physical evidence of Jesus' resurrection was the empty tomb. Then came the bodily appearances to various people. Their experience of the risen Jesus turned their lives upside down. They were willing to give up everything for Jesus - even to face hostility, torture and death. They did it joyfully because they had a living relation with Jesus in prayer and the sacraments, especially baptism and the Eucharist.

Because of these witnesses we have good reason to put our faith in Jesus, to trust him. He calls us to trust during this time of pandemic. God allowed this suffering to come upon us for his own reasons and purposes. We may not understand but we can trust Jesus.

When our nation suffered its greatest trial - the Civil War - President Abraham Lincoln expressed it this way: "As was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said 'the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether'".

We may not be suffering so greatly as people did during the Civil War or during the pandemic of 1918-1919, still our suffering are real and for many quite terrible: elderly dying alone, maybe with family members holding a sign outside the window. And love ones unable to give a proper funeral. People having their lives wrecked - maybe a business they worked hard to build, now in ruins. Or the uncertainty and fear caused by massive unemployment.

People are asking: Why does God allow this? Why does God permit so much suffering? It won't do to start blaming others. You know, Abraham Lincoln could have blamed the South for the suffering of Civil War. But he did not do that. He recognized that we all to some degree have sinned and turned away from God. Lincoln speculated that God's judgement came because of the great sin of slavery. We certainly have done things which could bring the judgement of God.

Lincoln did not know how long the Civil War would last, nor do we know how long our present suffering will last. Whatever the future brings, along with Lincoln we can make an act of trust in God's righteousness. If we unite our sufferings to the cross, they have value - redemptive value.* In the midst of our crisis, we can hear Jesus: "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me."

I know some people will object: "Why do we need faith in God? We're the ones who have to combat this virus. It depends on us, not God." I'll address that objection next weekend.

For today it's enough to recognize many are suffering deeply, perhaps some of our moms are suffering most. Some of you are going through a trial so terrible the rest of us can barely imagine. Yet you can recognize the truth of what Lincoln spoke: "As was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said 'the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether'". And you can respond to Jesus' invitation - nay, his command: "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me." Amen.

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
5 Easter

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
5 Easter

In our Gospel text today we hear Jesus speaking at the Last Supper about where he is going. It is worth noting that in the previous chapter John records how Jesus told the Apostles in heart-rending terms that he was soon to leave them.

The words he used were: "My little children, I shall not be with you much longer. You will look for me and… where I am going you cannot come." The Apostles begin to realise that what they were celebrating was not so much a Passover Meal to inaugurate Christ coming into his glory as a farewell meal –a Last Supper to commemorate his departure.

In the immediate few verses before the one set before us Peter speaks for the other Apostles and expresses his distress that Jesus is leaving them and asks if he can follow him. Jesus gently tells him that he cannot follow him now but will do so later. Without a hint of irony Peter declares that he wants to follow him now even if it means laying down his life for Jesus. Then we get that most famous prophecy: "Before the cock crows you will have denied me three times."

All this leads up to and explains the opening words of today's Gospel: "Do not let your hearts be troubled." Jesus is trying to calm them down; the Apostles are obviously quite troubled and anxious because they have begun to realise that Jesus is soon to leave them. Peter is, naturally enough, even more troubled than the others because he is struggling to make sense of the prophecy which foretells his three-fold denial.

We might think that those Apostles were being a bit unreasonable. We do so because, looking backwards at those events, we know that Jesus must leave them in order to bring about the salvation of mankind. But we ought to remember that the Apostles do not know this; they cannot understand his words because they don't know what we know.

After all, at this point it is less than a week after the Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem that is celebrated on Palm Sunday. The disciples must have been full of excitement and full of expectation that Jesus is about to be triumphantly accepted as the Messiah. Of course, that Entry into Jerusalem wasn't actually very glorious —it was just a crowd of poor people waving palms at a so-called king on a donkey. Not really a particularly auspicious entry, you might think.

But at least it was a procession and there were some shouts of Hosanna. And Jesus was well known for turning the ordinary into the extraordinary, such as when he turned water into wine and when he fed the five thousand from a few loaves and a couple of fish.

Now here he is, just a few days after entering the Holy City, talking about leaving them. No wonder they are confused, no wonder they are upset. A few moments ago he had spoken about a betrayer. Well, you would have to forgive the Apostles if they wondered who was betraying whom.

In this wonderful text that we have set before us today Jesus gently reassures his Apostles that while he might be going away this is only so that he will be able to return to take them with him. And then in answering the questions of Thomas and Philip he explains at length the closeness of his union with the Father.

We know quite well that things aren't going to turn out the way the Apostles expect and all this talk about Jesus leaving them is only just the beginning. In a few hours these men will have seen him arrested, put on trial, found guilty, scourged and executed. And most of them will be so disappointed that they will desert him in his hour of greatest need.

In their shock at what is happening they will forget these words of Jesus uttered at the Last Supper: "Trust in God and trust in me." "I am going to prepare you a place and after I have gone and prepared you a place I shall return to take you with me."

They simply don't get it. They don't understand what he is talking about because this place that Jesus is referring to is beyond the grave. He is going to the place from which no one has ever come back. That's why they don't understand him, that's why they deny him, that's why they desert him.

It is not by any accident that the first part of today's Gospel is the one most frequently selected for funerals. Jesus is, after all is speaking about life after death and he is doing so in very reassuring words and in quite concrete terms.

We all remember how Moses led the people of Israel out of exile and slavery in Egypt into the Promised Land. In the new dispensation Jesus leads his people on the much trickier journey through death into the Promised Land of heaven.

Moses didn't know the way; it took the people forty years to journey through the desert, they got lost many times and they had a lot of troubles on the way. But with Jesus it is different. Here he is quite specific; he not only knows the way he is The Way. He not only speaks the truth; he is The Truth. He not only survives death but he is The Life.

The Apostles leave the Last Supper having heard many reassuring words but they actually leave quite disturbed at the thought that there was a traitor in their midst. Then everything moves very quickly: the arrest in the Garden, the trial before Pilate, the scourging at the Pillar, the journey to Golgotha and Christ's death in the Cross.

They know that Christ speaks in paradoxes and works miracles but when he says that he will be exalted they do not realise that he means that he will be exalted on a Cross. They do not realise that this greatest of all ignominies will become the greatest glorification of all time. They do not realise that Christ's death means our life.

Those words of Jesus, "Do not let your hearts be troubled," never meant as much as they did on that most fateful of all days. Never did they need more to "Trust in God and trust in Jesus" than they did on that most terrible of days. This most comforting of all Biblical texts is presented to us for our reflection in the weeks after Easter.

Although the incident occurred at the Last Supper we read it in the light of the resurrection and it is to us a great message of hope. For we know that not only did Christ return three days later but that he will one day return to take us with him. He will return to take us to the place prepared for us in that great mansion of many rooms which is the Kingdom of God. And in the meantime all that he requires of us is to communicate this simple message to the people we meet. What Good News this is!
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