Sunday, May 10, 2020

Reflections for the 5th Sunday of Easter May 10, 2020

Taken from A Catholic Moment;

The readings of today explain to us the difficult path of faith that we must all walk before we get to our final destination. Our challenges will not only come from outside but also from among our brethren. This is the challenge the Apostles dealt with in the First reading. But then, it is through our perseverance in faith and by making Jesus our fundamental option in life that we will be able to stand when trouble grows. This is the message of the Second reading. The Gospel is Jesus’s assurance to us that when our heart quakes in troubles, he is always there to console us and to fill us with the hope of looking ahead to the Eternal Home he has prepared for us in the house of the Father. Thus, the challenges in this life cannot stop those who have placed their focus on Christ; the Way, the Truth and the Life.

FIRST READING : Acts 6:1-7
The First reading of the Second Sunday of Easter (Acts 2:42-47) gave us an account of the interior life of the early Church, a life of love and sharing without differences. And on this Fifth Sunday of Easter, the First reading tells us that this life that was once lived in peace and unity is gradually gaining and internal crises. These two different moments simply reveal to us the inhabiting tendency of man. It is almost impossible to love without having a moment of challenges. But then, a true love is one that survives challenges. A love that survives challenges does not count differences. But when individual differences mount pressure over love, then race, tribe and language becomes obvious. This is the situation that almost overtook the early community.
The Greek-speaking widows complained that the Aramaic-speaking food-ministers were short-changing them at meals in favor of the Aramaic-speaking widows.
This problem was resolved peacefully by the Apostles based on two pillars:
The power of the Holy Spirit that was still at work. It was the Spirit that ‘enwisdomised’ them to come up with the institution of seven men with the fullness of the Spirit: “Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolaus of Antioch.”
Secondly, the power of community life. It is in the spirit of community living that the Apostles convoked the gathering, and the same community Spirit that made them not to believe that they can do it all. Service must not be monopolized but has to be distributed.
More interestingly, the men chosen were Greeks. It simply tells us that if the Greek members of the community have problem, the Church believes that they have capable men among them that can resolve their problems.
The choice of these men which was crowned with a solemn imposition of hand is an accent to the ancient rite of consecration. It suggests that their service is not just a human institution, but a divine service. This is the origin of the Church’s order of the diaconate.

SECOND READING: 1 Peter 2:4-9
The discourse of Peter gives us a view of the Church as a spiritual edifice built from “living stones” upon the “Living Cornerstone of Christ” (I Pt 2:4-5).
The concept of cornerstone also known as the foundation stone is the first stone set in building construction which determines the position of the entire structure. Peter parallels Jesus to Cornerstone by making reference to the Hallel Psalm 118 about the stone rejected by the builders which eventually became the cornerstone. This was a direct speech against those who rejected the Messiahship of Jesus and his centrality in their lives. They will stumble and fall, all those who reject him, but for those who have made him the foundation of their lives, they will not be put to shame. Peter labelled the identity of the new community of believers with the title and emblem of the believing Israel of the Old Testament: “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people who are no longer subjects to darkness because the Cornerstone is their foundation.
Peter’s message is alive and active. Our lives must be founded on Christ. He is the only sure foundation that can keep us standing without crashing in the midst of the vicissitudes of this life.

GOSPEL: John 14:1-12
Today’s Gospel chapter is part of the five last discourses of Jesus sometimes referred to as the farewell message. The setting of these five great discourses is the Last Supper. On the Chapter 13 of John’s Gospel, after the heroic service of the washing of the feet of his disciples, Jesus opened up to them about his imminent betrayal and death. It was indeed a breaking news which came with an unexpected tune: “I tell you this now before it happens…”(Jn. 13:19). They were sparked into fear that their Master was leaving. And of course they did not understand where he was going which prompted the question of Peter: “Lord where are you going?” (V.36). It was Peter’s question in chap. 13 that introduces us into the chap. 14 of today’s Gospel.
Like the eyes of a mother bent on looking on the depressed faces of her kids, Jesus was deeply moved by the present condition of his Apostles. And while feeling their fears and loneliness, he mustered like a mother, “Do not let your hearts be troubled; Believe in God and believe in Me. In my Father’s house there are many places to live in. I am going now to prepare a place for you.”
In fact unlike the chapters 15, 16 and 17 which were continuous unilateral discourse of Jesus, John presented the chapters 13 and 14 as a dialogue. Gripped in confusion, fear, and uncertainties, the Apostles asked questions for clarification. The answer of Jesus to Peter wasn’t enough to clear their confusion. So Thomas did not hesitate to ask, “Lord we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way? Philip was not left out in the series as he insisted, “Lord show us the Father and then we shall be satisfied?”
The questions of Thomas and Phillip respectively gave birth to the affirmation on the identity of Jesus that would later become great theological pillars for the Church to combat the heretics that will question the Divinity of Jesus. Jesus did not just reveal himself in both responses as the only Way to the Father, the Divine Truth, and the only source of Life, he equally affirmed his Consubstantial identity with the Father (the Father is in me and I am in the Father).The doctrine of ‘Consubstantiality’ will become the apex of the dogmatic affirmation in the Nicean Creed revolving around the mystery of the Trinity.
John captures this discourse of Jesus on the Last Supper both as an adieu message for his imminent death as well as an anticipation of the pre-ascension message. And to give accent to its connection with a Pentecost experience, John adds in the subsequent verses, “I shall ask the Father and he will give you another Paraclet to be with you for ever” (Jn. 14:16).

The first century Jewish converts to christianity did not have it smooth. They struggled to keep their feet on the ground as many of their ‘fanatic’ Jewish brothers made life difficult for them not just for adhering to christianism but also because of their interaction with the Gentiles. Gradually they found themselves cast out from the synagogues. It is easy to imagine how they felt like strangers among their own people. Probably it is in the heat of this difficulty that John addressed this message of consolation. It is typical of a pastoral letter telling them not to let their hearts to be troubled, but to persevere in faith. The promise of many rooms to his disciples in his Father’s house became a viable message for John to comfort the suffering church that even though they may be driven out from the homes made of hands, God has homes prepared for them in heaven. It is just enough to keep their focus in the Eternal Homeland as a reward for their perseverance in suffering for the sake of faith.

Those who journey along with the Lord should not only expect a rosy side of life. They must always prepare to stumble over disappointments, heavy loads of problems and lots of threat from the world. It will come in such a manner that they would even be made to believe that the Lord has abandoned them.
Each one of us is a living witness of how our faith has wrestled with difficult times. And we have often been beaten and defeated. ‘God where are you’ is still a question we are so familiar with. It is a question our world is asking to date. Everything appears as if God has finally said adieu to his people. But the Gospel of John this day is a positive response to the preoccupations of those who trust in God. Jesus is aware of our troubles. He knows how we feel. He was the first to taste every bitter side of life before us. He knew persecution, rejection, betrayal, hunger, thirst, poverty, loneliness, nakedness etc. And from his faithfulness he tells us, ‘Let your hearts not be troubled; believe in God, believe in me.’
Is it still possible to trust and hold firm when we feel life is unjust to us? It is humanly difficult. But if we understand that as long as we live in flesh and blood it is inevitable to escape for troubles then we will find solace in his Word: “I am going to prepare a place for you…I will come back to take you with me, so that where I am, you too will be.” Troubles will never be over until we are over from this life. But it is only our perseverance that will win for us the Eternal Homeland.

THE WAY: There are certainly different ways we can employ in order to achieve anything we in this life. But for that Highest Good (God), Jesus says that we have only one way. ‘I am the way’ is an emphatic pronouncement signifying that besides him there is no other. He’s the only means through which we can reach the Father. There is no other shortcut or track road to the Father. Those who walk through him shall never miss their way to the Father.

THE TRUTH: Jesus is the total revelation of the invisible God. He is everything we need to know about the Father. The men of this world are attracted to empty philosophy and acquisition of contingent truth about reality. Jesus simply tells us, ‘If you don’t have me, you are empty of the truth. I am everything you need to know and acquire. The experience of St. Augustine of Hippo testifies how empty man without God could be, even with all his knowledge. His encounter with the Lord showed that his search for truth and happiness in sciences and friendship with the world was indeed an empty adventure. And he exclaimed at last: ‘O Eternal beauty, how did I discover you so late…You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.’

THE LIFE: Jesus had earlier told Mary and Martha “I am the resurrection and the life” (Jn 11:25). Today he drags our attention towards something we probably do not often think about. He simply tells us, ‘what you have is not life but a shadow of life.’ We often spend time decorating this life while thinking less of the real life. This life has a span. It will surely end. Jesus tells us, ‘if you have me you have the real life that will know no end. Yes, I am everything you need and nothing more.’
Keep us aclose to you Lord, so that we may learn how to hold on to you in the days of troubles, and without slipping away from you, bring us at last to that room that belongs to each one of us in your Father’s house. Amen.

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