JESUS THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE
Fifth Sunday of Easter – May 10, 2020
First Reading: Acts 6: 1-7. The first Christian community grew in faith and in number. They sorted out their problems in peaceful manner the problems that arose among them.
Second Reading: 1 Pet 2: 4-9. The second reading taken from the Acts of the Apostles describes the responsibility and special dignity of the members of the Christian community.
Gospel: John 14: 1-12. Friends and followers of Jesus became distressed over his words that he is going away. Jesus then consoles them.
Today’s Gospel begins with these consoling words, “Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me.” These words are very consoling words for our current situation around Coronavirus. These words are not blindly claiming to end all our troubles. Very often we think, happiness is the absence of suffering. And some people become very negatively reactive to the consoling words offered in the context faith. They behave like the bad thief who hanged with Jesus on the cross and who asked him to remove himself from the cross and them if Jesus was the Son of God. Sometimes in the name of faith we could be insensitive and impractical! It is easy to convince ourselves that we have a strong faith when things are going well. When a crisis arises we discover what kind of faith we have, or if we have any faith at all. By faith here, I mean trust in God. However, the consoling words in the faith can also give us assurance of the presence of God.
What these words of Jesus mean is that, amidst the troubles of life, such as the current situation of this global pandemic of Coronavirus, even as we find solutions to this pandemic, even as we reach out to each other to alleviate suffering, our hearts can still be at peace.
How is it possible? some would claim. It is impractical to be at peace amidst this trouble, they say. Keeping our hearts at peace does not mean, I am not concerned about the problem. But Jesus invites us to be concerned about the situation in a graceful way. After all, if there is a solution why worry? And if there is no solution, why worry?
In the first reading of today we have an interesting story of conflict resolution in the early Christian community. we heard a story of neglect of the minority group in the access to the resources of the community. Hellenist Christians were Greek speakers; perhaps they were the minority. Hebrews, of course, being the majority in the community in Jerusalem, and priding themselves that Jesus himself was a Hebrew, they seemed to have the lion’s share in the daily distribution of the common goods. One can say, there were a little bit of xenophobic discrimination in the distribution of goods.
This situation was brought to the attention of the apostles, who realised that they were not capable of the administration of the temporal goods, since they were busy with “the service of the Word”. So they wanted to delegate the administration to a team of 2nd level managers (who would be later known as ‘the deacons’). It is important to note that even in the selection of these candidates the criteria used were not merely temporal: Deacons should be “men of good reputation, filled with the Spirit and with wisdom.” This delegation of duty was done so that the apostles themselves will continue to fully devote themselves to “prayer and the service of the word.”
Among those men chosen to distribute temporal goods was Stephen, a man filled with grace and power and who worked miracles and great signs among the people. Then certain people came forward to debate with Stephen, They found they could not stand up against him because of his wisdom, and the Spirit that prompted what he said.
In short, though Stephen and his companions were basically appointed for “service at table” – for the administration of the temporal goods, they were not just tied down to administration. We see Stephen entering powerfully into the “service of the word”. And because of this, he will become the first martyr. A bursar becomes the first martyr for Christ. The story of Stephen always intrigues me. Why am I intrigued by this?
Stephen and his companions who were elected for the service of the table got immersed in the service of the word; a lot of priests complain when they are sent to do administration work, they argue to be ordained priests for pastoral ministry. I pray that the story of Stephen inspires us.
The word of God today challenges us to revisit our reason of being of the believing community, the church: the Church exists to continue to experience God in Jesus, and to mediate that experience in the world. In the Second reading of today, Peter tells us: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a people set apart to sing the praises of God…” Being a community of believers is, therefore, a privilege and a challenge: privilege to experience God; challenge to share that experience with the rest of humanity.
In the Gospel of today, Jesus declares, “I am the way, the truth, and the life”; “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” This is the core of our Christian faith: to experience God in Jesus. Everything else is mere decoration. 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.” The world today, as ever, needs the Way, the Truth and the Life. Are we ready to set our priorities right - as individuals and as the Church?
Gandhi once said, a person with a seed of faith in God never loses hope, because he believes in the ultimate triumph of truth. so dear brothers and sisters, when things are bad, may we hear the gentle words of Jesus, “Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me.”
Rev. Fr. Jean-Marie Kuzituka Did’ho
Saints Maria Goretti & Joseph Parishes