Easter 5 A: I am the Way, Truth and Life; Don't Be Anxious



The Peacemakers
Dawne Olson, a South Dakota mother of four, was preparing to give a talk on unity at her women's Bible study. She woke up early to type out the scripture verses. She wasn't quite finished when her four children began coming downstairs asking for breakfast. She could hear the children just around the corner in the kitchen as they rummaged through the refrigerator and cupboards for something to eat. At some point they discovered half of a toaster pastry on the counter from the night before. They all began screaming and fighting; each claiming the half-eaten Pop Tart. 

As Dawne made a couple of futile attempts to quiet them down, she finished typing the verse in Matthew 5:9 that says, "Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God." Taking her cue from scripture, she hollered into the kitchen above the noise, "Would somebody PLEASE be the peacemaker?!" 
There was a moment's silence and then Garret, age 6, piped up, "I'll be the piece maker, Mom!"

Then to his brother and sisters he said: "Here's a piece for you and you, and a piece for you and one piece for me." 

Needless to say, Dawne had her opening illustration on unity and peace for that evening's Bible study! 

Billy D. Strayhorn, I Go to Prepare a Place for You 

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A young man took me to task several months ago. He told me we priests, and I definitely think he was including me, had let him down. He rattled off a whole list of accusations about not keeping up with the reality of the modern world; living in the past; not adapting teachings to suit the present day and so on and so on. His coup de grâce was that we were no longer relevant. (Fr. John Speekman) 

I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. How do we communicate this through our lives, our system, our preaching and our liturgy?

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"Master we do not know where you are going, how can we know the way", Thomas

Thomas Merton Prayer
MY LORD GOD, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
 
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 "Show us the Father, and that will be enough for us", Philip

From The Confessions of Saint Augustine
 
Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.

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From Father James Gilhooley 

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." 

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Thomas O’Loughlin
Introduction to the Celebration 

We gather for the Eucharist not as a group of individuals each here for her or his own needs: rather we gather as a community called by God to work together. This is the meal that bonds us to one another and to Christ; with Christ we become God’s people offering worship to the Father; from Christ we draw strength to build a society focused on God’s loving plan for the creation; and in Christ we are called to turn from selfishness and strife to a life of peacemaking and gentleness. 

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Michel de Verteuil
General comments 

 On the 5th and 6th Sundays of Easter time, it is traditional to read extracts from the long discourse which St John tells us Jesus had with his apostles at the Last Supper, and which he recounts from chapter 13, verse 31 to the end of chapter 17.

This is a very deep teaching of Jesus, and therefore you must make a real effort to discover that it is also down-to-earth, to be experienced by us personally.      

It is useful to remember that the teaching was given on a specific occasion: Jesus was facing a great crisis in his own life and in the life of the little community he had founded. In your meditation, remember a similar moment in your own life, or in the life of your community, or in the history of a country or even a civilization. Who was Jesus in that situation, speaking as Jesus did in these passages? Looking back on those experiences, what words of Jesus can you see were fulfilled? 

This Sunday’s passage is rather long, and you must divide it up so that you can meditate on one section at a time.       

Verses 1 to 3 :Jesus sees himself at this point in his life as having to make a painful journey alone. He knows that as a result of this journey he will go to a beautiful place, with plenty of space so there is freedom for all. Because of his journey, he will be able to lead his followers to that place as well. Recognize that moment is the life of every person, the Church, any great movement of history.      

Journeying with Jesus  

Verses 4 to 6 : Thomas is struggling with the desire, which is in all of us, to know exactly the destination before we set out. Jesus invites him to make an act of faith and to take one step at a time.       

Verses 7 to 11 : Philip too must make a journey which we can recognize. He wants to experience God directly. Jesus shows him that he has been experiencing God all the time by involving himself in the works which Jesus has been doing.       

Verse 12 : Jesus sees himself on a journey to the Father, trusting that the work will continue because it is not his but the Father’s. 

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Homily notes 

The Church is a mystery, not a problem to be solved but something which stretches our reason leading us to faith. 

1. One of the mysteries that finds least resonance in modern western society is that of the church. We view life as isolated individuals, rather than as members of a group where the group is considered more real than the individual. This individualism grows apace: a few centuries ago the kin group was the source of identity, then it was reduced to a smaller family unit, then to the ‘nuclear family,’ and now even that notion seems ‘to threaten individuality’. The view of the church has likewise changed: from being a wider and more profound bond than any other, it became in the sixteenth century the vehicle for getting one’s religious needs served; then to being simply a cultic administration, and now for many who wish to call themselves Christian it is no more than a hindrance, a set of arbitrary external forms challenging their individual liberty. 

2. This sets up a tension for the preacher. On the one hand, the church’s structures have a record of abusing power – the more objectionable as it was done in the divine name. And, there is an on-going danger in all administrative minds, such as those who rise in religious hierarchies, towards closet totalitarianism: the notion that is it is the group that must survive and the individual is just a replaceable bit that can be jettisoned. In the community of Christ where the highest is to feed the little lambs (In 21:15-7), avoiding such totalitarian action must be a primary moral imperative. On the other hand, the mystery of the church is central to the good news. 

Christ gathers us into a unity, we act as a group in union with him, we are a people, a community, a body of different members with Christ as our head. Baptism is not an individual ticket to salvation, nor simply a declaration of a religious stance, rather it makes us into a member of community which is the body of Christ on earth. Since we are made by God for membership of this community, and known through and through by him, in this group we do not surrender our individuality to the collectivity but each is called to be a unique part of the whole: no one can make Christ present in a particular place, situation, and time, or in just the same way that you or I can. Each unique person and situation can become a place of the incarnation. As such we can praise uniqueness without endorsing a lonely individualism, praise collective endeavour to build the kingdom without invoking a totalitarian vision. But having this vision, and seeing our talents as gifts to be used in conjunction with others, while recognising the other’s different vocation, is difficult; and indeed is one of the tasks we must face in growing in holiness. 

3. Preaching this primary Christian mystery of the church took many forms in the early kergyma: we are most familiar with the body metaphors in Paul, but it can also be found in the pastoral language of flocks and shepherding in the gospels, or in a series of Old Testament religious images such as ‘Israel’ in Galatians, or as in today’s second reading. However, of them all the building metaphors of stones, corner-stones, and so on, are perhaps the easiest to take on board. 

4. All the parts of a building are different (doors, windows, wires, pipes) and individually of not much use. But when fitted together the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. We can ask which we would like to get rid of: one churchthe wood, the plaster, the glass? It is the rich variety of parts that are different and specific to tasks and location within the building that makes the whole so worthwhile. Alternatively, the church building may contain an arch of stone or bricks which can be used as a visual aid. All the bricks look the same when viewed one by one. But in an arch each has to be set slightly differently to the bricks each side of it. Without anyone brick, or if two are set in same way, then the whole is weakened and cannot achieve its purpose and the bricks are just a heap doing nothing. The arch is a unity, but for its unity it depends on each having its distinctive role. Both building and arch need a mind that co-ordinates the parts, an architect who links the parts to the larger purpose: as members of the church we believe Christ is that guiding source of unity.  

5. In 1 Peter there is a crucial distinction made when using the building metaphor: we are living stones. We are not like bricks which can only be moved by someone else. We must use our initiative, and see what is needed to advance the kingdom for which we pray ‘thy kingdom come.’ Being living stones we are not tools / materials in the hands of another, but all are fellow workers with one another and Christ. Being a Christian challenges the modern myth of lonely self-advancement; our vision is one of using our individual creativity in conjunction with others to build a kingdom worthy of being presented by Christ to the Father. 

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John Litteton
Gospel Reflection 

Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. If we cannot believe this, then Jesus joins a long list of influential religious leaders who have tried to make a difference to the world throughout human history. He remains one of many leaders, all of whom may be legitimate and relevant but none of whom is unique and absolutely necessary for salvation. Accordingly, neither is the Church necessary for salvation because one religion is as good as another. 

The way, truth, life 

However, if we are convinced that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life — as he taught in his preaching — we believe that he is divine as well as human and we accept the uniqueness of his saving death and resurrection. Furthermore, we acknowledge the uniqueness of Christianity among the various world religions and we recognise the absolute necessity of the Church for salvation. The Church is necessary because the Church is the Body of Christ, and Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life. 

What does it mean, then, to claim that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life? Very simply, it means that Jesus is the way to our true home in heaven. He is the only way because he teaches the truth and because the Father’s life is in him. So the fullness of God’s revelation is found in Jesus. All of what God wishes us to know about his nature and his will is to be glimpsed in Jesus who manifests God’s unconditional love and forgiveness. He dies for us and for all other sinners so that we may have eternal life. 

God is to be found in Jesus who is Christ the Lord. That is why Jesus told his disciples that, ‘to have seen me is to have seen the Father’ (Jn 14:9). Jesus came into the world to teach us about God. When we accept Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, we are assured that we are in direct, personal contact with God. 

But Jesus is not the Way, the Truth and Life just for those who know him and believe in him explicitly. He is also the Way, the Truth and the Life for all people who are saved, for all people who gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven. Christians believe and teach that Jesus Christ is the sole mediator between God and all people. Salvation for everyone is achieved only through the merits of his death on the cross, although people from other religions and none do not accept this. 

Jesus is the Universal Saviour. His life and ministry teach us all we need to know about God. His death wins eternal life for us. His resurrection from the dead gives us hope in this life and in life after death. He leads us to God, our heavenly Father. That is why we believe that he is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

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Prayer reflection:

       Lord, there was a time when the teaching of Jesus meant nothing to us.
       We were drifting,
       we could not accept the values which had guided us in the past.

       Then one day, almost miraculously, we knew you were with us again.
       It was like coming home;
       in fact, we felt an inner freedom and security
       such as we had never known before.
       Looking back on that journey,
       we see that our hearts need not have been troubled;
       you had left us on our own for a while,
       but only to prepare this wonderful place for us to be. 

Lord, as parents, teachers, community leaders, preachers of the gospel

       we try to guide our charges along a road we have not traveled ourselves.
       That is not the way of Jesus.
       Teach us that we must make our own journey, painful though that may be;
       only then can we come back and share it with others,
       so that where we are they also may be.

        Lord, we pray today for those who are facing death or some terrible crisis.
       We pray that their hearts may not be troubled.
       They are making a lonely journey, but you will come back
       and take them where they can be at home with you forever.

        Lord, we are at a crossroads in life, and before we set out
       we would like to know where you are leading us.
       Help us to give ourselves to the present moment,
       trusting that if we enter into the truth of our situation,
       it will lead us to life.

       Lord, we remember when we tried to meet you directly,
       remaining alone, withdrawing from others.

       We thank you that you sent us a teacher who invited us to become involved
       – in working with the poor;
       – in building communities;
       – in caring for those who are neglected by society.
       Then to our surprise we found that you were working with us
       and that we were in your presence. 

       Lord, we pray for those who have started great projects
       here in our country and in the world.
       They are often anxious about what will happen when they move on.
       Remind them that they are not alone,
       that they are part of humanity making its way to you.
       There will be followers who will do the same work
       and will perform even greater works. 

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HOMILIES: 

1.     Fr. David V. Meconi, sj 

Purpose: The Church is not a building or a place; it is God’s people gathered together in perfect harmony.  The Church is the ecclesia—those people called (kaleo) out (ex) the world into God’s eternal family.  In the world, an edifice is built when men offer the best plans and   material they can furbish; in heaven the Church is, in one sense, paradoxically made up not of the best of things but the weakest of persons. Today, speak of (1) the meaning of the Church as God’s people, (2) as well as the great irony of God’s building even greater things with what has been rejected by the world. 

When Vatican II insisted on understanding the Church as “The People of God” (Lumen Gentium, esp., ch. 2, §9-17), some took that as a dangerously “low ecclesiology” challenging the Church’s hierarchy and as an inevitable affront to the splendor of liturgy and any claims to transcendence. That fear was understandable (and unfortunately justified in many places).  I think of Avery Cardinal Dulles’ story about preaching in a New York parish and seeing a big banner in the back of Church proclaiming, “God is other people”—to which Cardinal Dulles wisely quipped, “Does anyone here have a felt comma?  God is other, people!”.  Yet in truth the Church is nothing other than the elect called out of the world into God’s own sanctity; in the end it won’t have to do with proper form and 

Caryll Houselander, the English spiritual writer and mystic, defines the Church very simply as “Christ dwelling in men.”  Today’s readings depict the Church as being built not by brick and mortar but by the “living stones”, the saints whose cornerstone is Christ.  The “other-worldliness” of the Church’s nature strikes us from the beginning, as the first one mentioned is not a powerful CEO or an efficient task manager, but a martyr.  Stephen is held up as the first to understand wholly the ultimate demands of love and the shedding of blood.  As our world grows more hostile to the Church’s message and activity, more Stephens are needed and will be called out of the world. 

Maybe today we could use this opening image to address Holy Orders and the priesthood (“the Twelve’) and the diaconate (“seven reputable men…appoint[ed] to the task”). At Franciscan University of Steubenville, the “Living Stones” is a discernment community of young men seeking God’s call (http://www.franciscan.edu/Households/LivingStones/) for their lives.  Yet lest we mistakenly keep our understanding of “vocation” narrowly relegated to just Holy Orders, we need to address all the baptized.  All of God’s people are called to see themselves as needed stones in God’s way of being present on earth.  We preachers have the distinct duty of getting all God’s people to see how he longs to live his life in and through them and how he has chosen to need them to say yes before he can redeem the world as he wills. 

So, while not many can imitate Jesus in his greatness, we are all called to follow him in his littleness.  Peter therefore highlights how Christ was rejected by the world as a comfort to those of us who realize this world is not our true home, cannot provide ultimate meaning.  At baptism we too were rejected, as Christians there are now some activities and words and thoughts and images to which we should be “dead”.  Our scars and our disappointments, our wounds and perhaps even our sins thus become the interstices with which the pierced Christ builds up his Mystical Body on earth.  As he was rejected, we too should seek that rejection by the world—we do so when people at work know we are Catholics, we do so when we decline a particular plan of action because it is clearly immoral, we do that when we refuse to lash out in anger or malign another with whom we disagree.  In rejecting the world in this way, we offer ourselves up as those stones who compose Christ’s body.  His “other selves” who reflect his life and embody his love for the world. 

Is this building up of a saintly people perhaps the “greater ones than these” we hear at the end of today’s Gospel?  Christ concludes the reading with a rather enigmatic statement: as perfect as his works have been, w will see even greater ones because he is going to the Father.  While on earth, how many people would Christ had able to see and talk with in the course of one day? If still on earth, how many people would realistically be able to meet Jesus and experience firsthand his love for them?  By ascending to the Father, Christ sends the Holy Spirit which unites Christians not only to their Father but to one another.  This is the Mystical Body and now there are billions of Christs, thousands upon thousands of languages are spoken, a myriad of people are cared for, fed, housed, and loved.  Here “greater” things occur than if Christ would have clung to remaining in Israel.  In Augustine’s turn of phrase, this is the totus Christus, the “whole Christ” where the Head refuses to be identified without his Body.  Herewith is our greatest dignity, to know that as cells make up a body, we are the stones that make up the “building” of Christ’s body. 

Thomas Aquinas takes this approach in his rich (and woefully unread) Commentary on John when he writes: 

What is remarkable is that he adds, and greater works than these will he do. We could say that in a certain sense our Lord does more things and greater things through his apostles than by himself. Among the miracles of Christ the greatest was when a sick person was healed by touching the fringe of his garment (Mt 9:20). But the sick were healed by the shadow of Peter, as we read in Acts (5:15). And it is greater to heal by one’s shadow than by the fringe of one’s garment. In another way, we could say that Christ did more by the words of his disciples than by his own. As Augustine says, our Lord is speaking here of works accomplished by words, when the fruit of these words was faith. We see in Matthew that a young man was not persuaded by Christ to sell his possessions and follow him, for when Christ said to the youth, “Go, sell what you possess and give to the poor,” we read that “he went away sorrowful” (Mt 19:21). Yet we read that at the preaching of Peter and the other apostles, people sold their possessions and all that they owned and brought the money and laid it at the feet of the apostles (Acts 4:34). 

What tremendous dignity we have been given in being made collaborators in the world’s salvation.  Christ is not just our future destination, he is right now our way (Jn 14:6) and united with him we come to know, along with Philip, that we are made for the same Father. 

We are adopted children through grace, other sons and daughters alongside the only-begotten Son.  Point out to your people today that we pray at Mass to the Father, and we do so because we gather “in the unity of the Holy Spirit” as the Son of God. This alone should be enough to wean us from our sins and enable us to allow God to love us and make us his own.  Here our lives should be so transformed that we really begin to believe that we are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of {God’s} own”.  This new life is so awesome and far-reaching, the Church gives us 50 days to make ever deeper sense of what it means to be a divinely-adopted child over whom death has no more claim and in who God himself dwells so as to accomplish great things on earth.

2.     Fr. Tommy Lane: 

From time to time we all experience fears, worries, anxieties. If its severe it could even affect someone’s sleep and appetite. Because we are prone to fear, anxiety and worry it is no wonder that several hundred times the Bible advises us not to worry. Why does the Bible keep telling us not to worry? Because our faith is weak and instead of looking at God too often we look at the problems. If we prayed more I’m sure we would see God sending us help from somewhere. 

In the Gospel today we heard Jesus preparing his disciples for the time when he would no longer be with them. He said to them, 

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. (John 14:1-3) 

In the Gospel Philip asked Jesus to be able to see the Father and Jesus responded, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? To have seen me is to have seen the Father.” (John 14:9) If Jesus were to ask that question of us I think we would all answer that we do know something of Jesus but we don’t know him very well. That is why we worry. If we knew Jesus better we would not focus on problems and difficulties but focus on Jesus instead. “Have I been with you all this time and you still do not know me?” “Have I been with you all this time in the Mass and sacraments and the Word of God in the Bible and you still do not know me?” “Have I been with you all this time in the faith of your community and when you pray to me and you still do not know me?” “Have I been with you all this time and when you look back over your life you can see that I sent you help when you needed it and you still do not know me?” 

If we had more of Jesus in our lives we would have less fear, worries and anxieties. We would still have problems. God never promised that we would not have problems. Jesus himself had a big problem, he was sentenced to death as a common criminal. But Jesus rose on the third day and Jesus will help us rise above our difficulties also because as the second reading stated Jesus is the “living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God” (1 Pet 2:4) If we try to live without Jesus, life will not go nearly as well for us as when we have Jesus at the center of our lives. We can overcome problems better with Jesus in our lives than without Jesus. If we turn our backs on Jesus how can we expect to succeed? Let us focus on Jesus and not on the problems. Again as our second reading stated, “Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion, a cornerstone, chosen and precious, and whoever believes in it shall not be put to shame.” (1 Pet 2:6) When we have problems let us turn to Jesus who is always waiting for us. 

Sometimes we say, “It’s impossible.”
But Jesus says in Luke 18:27, “Things that are impossible for men are possible for God.”
Sometimes we say, “I’m too tired.”
But Jesus says in Matt 11:28 “Come to me all you who labor and are overburdened and I will give you rest.”
Sometimes we say, “Nobody really loves me.”
But in John 3:16 we read that God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.
Sometimes we say, “I can’t go on.”
But Jesus told Paul, “My grace is enough for you: for power is at full stretch in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9)
Sometimes we say, “I can’t do it.”
But Paul wrote in Phil 4:13, “I can do all things in Him who strengthens me.”
Sometimes we say, “I can’t manage.”
But Paul wrote in Phil 4:19, “God will fulfill all your needs in Christ Jesus as lavishly as only God can.
Sometimes we say, “I’m afraid.”
But in 2 Tim 1:7 we read, “God’s gift was not a spirit of timidity, but the Spirit of power and love and self-control.”
Sometimes we say, “I feel all alone.”
But in Heb 13:5 God says, “I will never fail or desert you.”
In our Gospel today Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.” (John 14:1) 

3.     Connections: 

THE WORD:

Today’s Gospel takes place at the Last Supper.  John’s account of that night is the longest in the Gospels -- five chapters in length (but with no account of the institution of the Eucharist).  The evangelist uses a literary device common in Scripture:  A leader (Moses, Joshua, David, Tobit) gathers his own (family, friends, disciples) to announce his imminent departure, offer advice and insight into the future and give final instructions.

At the time John is writing his Gospel, Christians are being harassed by both the Jews and the Romans.  Proclaiming the crucified Jesus as the Messiah is blasphemy to Judaism, while accusing the Romans of “judicial murder” in the death of Jesus threatens the new faith’s chances of survival as a “lawful religion” tolerated by their Roman occupiers.

The dominant themes here are consolation and encouragement: Be faithful, remember and live what I have taught you, for better days are ahead for you.  Christ -- the Way to God, the Truth of God and Life incarnate of God -- will return for the faithful who “who do the works that I do.” 

HOMILY POINTS:

The Jesus of the Gospel does not only show us the way -- his life of humble and generous servanthood is the way; he not just philosophizes about a concept of truth -- he is the perfect revelation of the truth about a God of enduring and unlimited love for his people; he is not just a preacher of futuristic promises -- he has been raised up by God to a state of existence in God to which he invites all of us.  In embracing the Spirit of his Gospel and living the hope of his Word, we encounter, in Christ, God himself.

Regardless of the career path we choose -- doctor, laborer, bank teller, teacher, parent or priest -- if we truly consider ourselves disciples of the Risen Jesus, we are called “to do the work I do.”  In our homes, workplaces, city halls and playgrounds, we are called to bring the miracle of Easter life: the reconciliation, justice and peace of the Risen One in whom God has revealed himself to all of humanity.

Seldom do we think of death as a return home, but today’s Gospel image of the “house with many dwelling places” helps us to realize that we were created for a life beyond this one -- we were created by God for life in and with him.

As Christians, we live in the eternal hope of one day living in God’s dwelling place — but that “place” of hope and compassion and peace exists here and now in the places we create where the poor and sick are cared for, the fallen are lifted up, and lost and rejected are sought after and brought home.  

The holy work of being Mom and Dad

Scrubbing the pan in which Sunday’s pot roast was roasted . . . getting your children to and from school, doctor’s appointments, rehearsals and practices . . . paying the bills and balancing the checkbook are hardly inspiring, exhilarating experiences.

But they are holy acts.

The details of being a parent — cleaning, teaching, driving to and picking up, paying tuition, guiding, counseling, feeding, clothing — take on a spiritual character when they are part of the work of transforming a child into a sacred and thoughtful and engaged adult.

For parents, the spiritual is not ethereal or remote; the holy is not abstract and confined to words and images.  For Moms and Dads, the spiritual is painfully real; the holy is directly connected to the most ordinary and mundane of human activities.  The spiritual transcends the present to envision the future — and who contributes more to the future than a parent raising a child into a responsible, centered, loving adult?

As a parent, you are a minister, you are a prophet, you are a priest.  You are unfolding the holy work of creation when you gave life to this person with a soul and spirit.  You are continuing the work begun by and now entrusted to you by God.

And that is the holiest of vocations.

[Adapted from “Sacred Time with Children” by Thomas Moore, Spirituality & Health, November-December 2007.]

The simple, mundane tasks of being a parent, of being a member of a family, of being a friend, of being a part of a parish, is the very “work” of God.  On the night before he died, Jesus asks his disciples to take up “the work that I do” — the work of humble servanthood that places the hurts and pain of others before our own, the work of charity that does not measure the cost, the work of love that transcends limits and conditions.   The “work” of God is not measured in effectiveness or efficiency; the hallmark of God’s work is the compassion and love, the justice and healing that inspire and compel that work.  The simplest act of kindness and charity, done in God’s spirit of love, is to do the very work of Christ; the most hidden and unseen acts of kindness will be exalted by Christ in the kingdom of his Father.    

4.     Andrew Greeley 

Background:

We continue this Sunday in our exploration of St. John’s account of the Last Supper discourse of Jesus to his apostles, a discourse which the author has compiled both from the words Jesus must have said many years before the Gospel was written down and mystical/theological reflections on the words of Jesus.  

 The tone of the discourse is bittersweet. On the one hand Jesus is saying farewell to his followers who will miss him and whom he will miss and on the other hand he is promising them that he will always be with them through the Holy Spirit and the Father’s love. Besides he will prepare a place for them where they will once again be happy and together.  

 Story:

Another Irish immigrant story: A young father decided that the only way he could support his wife and their three children was to leave for America. He would get a good job there, save his money, send most of it back to his family, and save the rest so that eventually he could buy them a house and bring them to the Land with the Golden Door. His wife, his children and his parents begged him not to leave. We’ll perish without you, they said. You’ll perish with me here, he said. I must go to America to earn a decent living. Well, they had an American wake for him, a sad party for a man they never hoped to see again. He survived the journey across the Atlantic, though many of his fellow passengers died. He survived a long trip to Chicago and his first days in the Stock Yards. It was a terrible bloody, smelly place to work, but he could earn more money in a couple of days there than he would in a whole year working his miserable farm. He sent home a letter every month with money that would keep his whole family alive. He stayed away from the pubs and ate very little in the crowded boarding house in which he lived. He went to night school to study accounting and eventually found a job which paid even more money than the slaughter house. Only a few letters came from home, because his children were too young to write, his parents didn’t know how, and his heartbroken wife would break down in tears when she tried to scribble a letter. After five years and several promotions, he had saved enough money to pay their first class passage to the United States and to buy a cozy house in which his family would live. While he waited for them to come – hoping that they would – he decorated and furnished the house.  

 Back home the wife’s mother was urging her not to go to America. People died on the trip, she said. You’ll be taking my grandchildren away. He’s a real yank now and he won’t want country folk like you living in his house. The wife was torn between two loves, but she finally decided after much delay to risk everything on the trip to America and to the husband she still loved, though she couldn’t really remember what he looked like. The trip over was easy in first class as was the train ride to Chicago. At first none of them recognized the prosperous gentleman in the business suit that welcomed them when they got off the train. They were astonished by the house – running water, gas lamps, inside heating. Isn’t worth waiting for? The husband asked. You were worth waiting for, his wife replied. 

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ILLUSTRATIONS: 

From Fr. Tony Kadavil’s Collection

1)    ”My Father’s house.”   

When St. John Chrysostom was summoned before the Roman Emperor Arcadius and threatened with banishment, he replied, “You cannot banish me, for the world is my Father’s house.”  “Then I will kill you,” exclaimed the Emperor angrily.  “No, you cannot,” retorted Chrysostom, “because my life is hidden with Christ in God.”  “Your treasures shall be confiscated,” the Emperor replied grimly. “Sir, you can’t do that because my treasures are in heaven as my heart is there.”  “I will drive you from your people and you shall have no friends left,” threatened the Emperor.  “That you cannot do either, Sir, for I have a Friend in heaven who has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’”  In today’s Gospel Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life, gives us the same assurance.  “In my Father's house there are many dwelling places.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.”  

2)    Surprises in Heaven:   

A few years ago, a minister of the United Methodist Church was forced out of his congregation and the ministry because he had the “audacity to preach heresy” during his Sunday sermon:  "I'm in a church,” he said, “which acts as if God has a very small house, with only a few rooms and only one door.  But thanks be to God, God's house, according to Jesus, has many rooms, many places to dwell.  If it were not so, he would have told us."  To add fuel to the fire, he explained his theory with a story.  A good man died and was ushered into heaven, which appeared to be an enormous house.  An angel began to escort him down a long hallway past "many rooms".  "What's in that room?" the man asked, pointing to a very somber-looking group of people chanting a Gregorian Mass.  "That's the Roman Catholic room,” said the angel.  “Very high church.”  "What's in that noisy room?" the man asked, pointing to a group of white-clothed people dancing, clapping and singing and occasionally shrieking out loud.  "That's the Pentecostal group," said the angel.  "Very lively."  "What's in that room?" asked the man, pointing to a group of bald-headed people meditating to the sound of an enormous gong."  That's the Zen group," said the angel.  "Very quiet.  You would hardly know they were here."  Then the angel stopped the man, as they were about to round a corner.  "Now, when we get to the next room," said the angel, "I would appreciate it if you would tiptoe past.  We mustn't make any sound."  "Why's that?" asked the man.  "Because in that room there's a bunch of very fundamentalist Christians; and they think they're the only ones here."  In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives a true picture of his Father’s house. 

3)    The tremendous claim by Jesus

The sages of India prayed the “Guru mantra” in Sanskrit language every morning centuries before Christ:  “From falsehood lead me to truth, from darkness lead me to light, from mortality lead me to immortality” (“Aasato Ma Sath Gamaya, Thamaso Ma Jyothir Gamaya, Mrtjyor Ma Amritham Gamaya”). Centuries later Jesus gave the answer to their prayer through his tremendous claim: "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life."  In fact, Jesus took three of the great basic concepts of the Jewish religion, and made the unique claim that in him all the three found their full realization.  This means that he alone is the surest way to God.  He alone can authoritatively and flawlessly teach us truths about God and he alone can give God’s life to us. John’s central message is that Jesus is both the revealer and the revelation of God. If we wish to know who God is, what God thinks and what God wants of us, we must attend to Jesus the Word of God.

4)    Jesus is the Way 

We go to God the Father who is Truth and Life through Jesus and we call Jesus the "Way" because he is the visible manifestation in human form of all that his Father is. To those who teach that all religions lead us to God or that religion is immaterial provided man lead a good life, Jesus has the answer that he is the safest and surest way to God because he came from God and he can lead us to his heavenly Father.  The founders of other religions had either wrong ideas about the way to God or they were not sure guides.  Lao-Tse (604-531 BC), the founder of Taoism said: “Get rid of all desires, you will have a contented life on earth, but I am not sure about the next life.”  Buddha taught people to reach self-realization through total detachment and “nirvana”, but he was not sure if these would lead one to God.  Confucius confessed that he did not know of an eternal life or the way to attain it.  The founder of Islam, Mohammed Nabi, admitted that he had no hope of the future unless Allah should put His mantle of mercy on him.  However, Jesus claims that he is the only way to God. When a Person is a Way for us to get to the Father and everlasting life, that Way is found only in our relationship with Him, that is, in our union with Him in mind and heart, in will and action. But Jesus’ sure way to God is the narrow way of the cross.  It is the least-traveled way of humble, loving, self-giving and committed service to others. To follow the Way of Jesus is to become a special kind of person, a person whose whole being reflects the Truth and the Life that Jesus reveals to us.  It is to be a person of Truth and Life who is totally identified with the vision and the values of Jesus.  The medieval monk Thomas à Kempis the author of Imitation of Christ explains Jesus’ statement, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life” thus: "Without the way, there is no going; without the truth, there is no knowing; and without the life, there is no living.” 

5)    Jesus is the Truth

Gandhi said, “God is truth.”  Jesus is the truth because he is the only one who reveals to us the whole truth about God.  He teaches us that God is a loving, merciful, providing and forgiving Father.  He also teaches us the truth that our triune God lives in each one of the believers.  Jesus is the truth also because he has borne testimony to truth, demonstrating through his life and death the love of God for human beings. Truth here is that complete integrity and harmony which Jesus himself revealed, not only in what he said and did, but in the total manifestation of his life and person.  Jesus is the truth, the word of God. To seek the truth elsewhere is to stumble and fall, to deal in falsehood and lies. So we pray the 86th Psalm, "Teach me thy way, O Lord, and I will walk in thy truth." For us to live the Truth in that Way is also to be fully alive, to be a "fully-functioning person,” responding totally to that abundance of life which Jesus has come to give us.

6)    Jesus is the Life 

As God, Jesus has eternal life in himself.  In addition, he is the one who gives us his life-giving Holy Spirit.  Jesus is the Life also in the sense that he allows us to share in God’s Life through the sacraments. Christ rose from the dead for two reasons: first, to give us eternal life; second, to make us fully alive now. His Spirit animates every moment of our lives. To be fully alive is to be in God. Thomas a Kempis of The Imitation of Christ fame wrote, "Without the Way, there is no going. Without the Truth, there is no knowing. Without the Life, there is no living."

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Eric Clapton, arguably the greatest living rock guitarist, wrote a heart wrenching song about the death of his four year old son. He fell from a 53rd-story window. Clapton took nine months off and when he returned his music had changed. The hardship had made his music softer, more powerful, and more reflective. You have perhaps heard the song he wrote about his son's death.  

It is a song of hope:  

Would you know my name if I saw you in heaven?
Would it be the same if I saw you in heaven?
I must be strong and carry on,
'Cause I know I don't belong here in heaven. 

Would you hold my hand if I saw you in heaven?
Would you help me stand if I saw you in heaven?
I'll find my way through night and day,
'Cause I know I just can't stay here in heaven. 
Time can bring you down, time can bend your knees.
Time can break your heart, have you begging please, begging please.
Beyond the door there's peace I'm sure,
And I know there'll be no more tears in heaven.  

Jesus has just had the Passover meal with his disciples. He has washed their feet in an act of servanthood. He has foretold his betrayal which Judas will soon perform. He has predicted Peter's denial. He has told them he is leaving. But he adds this word of hope: Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house there are many rooms. I go to prepare a place for you and will come again and take you to myself. So that where I am, you may be also.  

Hardship has a way of getting our attention. Pain slows us down. Very few us, after facing a trial, come out the same way we entered in. Jesus understood this and attempted to prepare his disciples for the road ahead.
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The difference between learning a language and living a language is shown by how well we understand the unique idioms of our new TGiF world (Twitter, Google, instagram, Facebook). Living languages change and adapt to the worlds they are living in. So there is a constant invention of new words, and even new dictionaries, like Urban Dictionary, that tells us daily what these new words mean.   

Ancient Latin and Koine Greek are beautiful, expressive languages. They speak of love in a language of love that is unsurpassed in beauty and vibrancy. They are languages that speak about our greatest desires for spiritual connections too. But these ancient languages have not been spoken for millennia. And they do not have any special words for new designations like the internet, or robots, or string theory, or sushi.   

English has always been "on the move." What is most familiar to you today? Words like "Facebook," "Twitter," "iPad," "Face Time," "Fandango," "Snap Chat," "Apps." These would have been gibberish a decade ago. In March of 2014, some of the words added to the definitive and prestigious Oxford English Dictionary included: crap shoot, honky-tonker, selfie, twerk, wackadoodle, bestie, bookaholic, scissor-kick, do-over, DIYer, to name just a few. Today these strange new words are guideposts to our daily lives. That is the way a "living language" keeps alive. It keeps changing. It re-invents itself all the time. A fossil language does not communicate. A fossil faith does not communicate, much less change the world.   

In the first century, there were lots of words being revisited, reframed, and reinvented. As the disciples and first followers of Jesus encountered the reality of the cross, and then the shock of the empty tomb, the whole concept of "Messiah" was looked over and under in a fresh way.  

From the Hebrew tradition of Isaiah (28:16), God is identified as a foundation stone. God is an immovable rock, the primordial solid stone. Peter himself had been identified as "petros," the movable stone as opposed to petra, the immovable bedrock. Peter knew his own weaknesses all too well and chose to write about a new kind of "rock." The image Peter offers is even weirder than the identity Jesus had given him as a "stone," as a petros (me stone), and upon this petra (we bedrock) Jesus promised to build his church. The Me is built upon the We. In Christ Peter's insecurities will be made solid, as will ours...   

The rest of this sermon can be obtained by joining http://www.sermons.com/signup 
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What's With the Fork?  

A woman was diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. As she was getting her things in order, she contacted her pastor and asked him to come to her house to discuss some of her final wishes. 

She told him which songs she wanted sung at her funeral service, what Scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in. She requested to be buried with her favorite Bible. 

As the pastor prepared to leave, the woman suddenly remembered something else. "There's one more thing," she said excitedly.
"What's that?" said the pastor.
"This is important," the woman said. "I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand." 
The pastor stood looking at the woman, not knowing quite what to say. 

The woman explained. "In all my years of attending church socials and potluck dinners, when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, 'Keep your fork.' It was my favorite part of the meal because I knew something better was coming-like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. 

"So, when people see me in that casket with a fork in my hand and they ask, 'What's with the fork?' I want you to tell them: 'Keep your fork. The best is yet to come!'"

Alan Carr, Biblical Facts about a Place Called Heaven
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One Way Out  

The year was 1275 BC, before Christ. The land was Egypt. The ruler was Pharaoh. The leader of the Jews was Moses. The Jews had been in slavery for four hundred years to the Egyptians, building their cities and pyramids. But God had sent the plagues, and now the Jewish nation was beginning their exodus from slavery. And at this particular moment, they were stopped by a body of water, the Red Sea, the Red Sea, and the Egyptian chariots and horses were rapidly coming to attack and bring death and extinction. It seemed there was no way out and then a miracle. Suddenly, before them, the Red Sea opened up and there was only one way. Only one way out. Only one way to avoid death and extinction and that was through the Red Sea.

That paradigm, that visual image of only one way out of death and extinction is deeply woven into the theology of the Old Testament and New Testament. I still can clearly see a picture poster from a Bible Series that I used to teach of a high piece of land on the left, a deep chasm in the middle and a high piece of land on the right. The high piece of land on the left represented Earth; the high piece on the right represented Heaven; and then there was a bridge in the form of a cross that went from Earth to Heaven. It was only on the cross of Christ that we moved from Earth to Eternity. It was the only way. It is the only way. 

Edward F. Markquart, Only One Way Out
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The Perfect Church 

Those of us who are part of the Church know we are not what Jesus called us to be. We spend too much and share too little; we judge too many and love too few; we wait too long and act too late. Perhaps you are saying, "Show me a church where ministers aren't self­-serving; where hypocrisy has been purged away; where church members don't waste time and energy squabbling over petty details; where love is genuine, and I'll become a member." You'll wait a long time, my friend, for such a church takes up no space on this earth. It has floated up, up, up and disappeared beyond Oz.  

Or perhaps, such a church lives as a memory -- a time when disciples believed, when faith could move mountains, and motives were pure. 

Barbara K. Lundblad, The Body of Christ Takes Up Space on Earth
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The Wednesday Worry Box 

Sometimes, if you will just wait, problems take care of themselves. J. Arthur Rank had a system for doing that. He was one of the early pio­neers of the film industry in Great Britain, and he also happened to be a devout Christian.   

Rank found he could not push his worries out of his mind completely; they were always slipping back in. So he finally made a pact with God to limit his worrying to Wednesday. He even made himself a little Wednesday Worry Box and he placed it on his desk. Whenever a worry cropped up, Rank wrote it out and dropped it into the Wednesday Worry Box.   

Would you like to know his amazing discovery? When Wednesday rolled around, he would open that box to find that only a third of the items he had written down were still worth worrying about. The rest had managed to resolve themselves.    

If you have a troubled heart, ask God to give you a new perspective. Also ask him to give you patience so that you do not jump ahead and worry about a problem that may never come. But most important of all, ask God for more faith. Faith in God is the best remedy for all our problems. Jesus put it plainly, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me."  

King Duncan, Collected Sermons, adapted from Daily Bread, 11 December 1999. Cited by David Jeremiah, Slaying The Giants In Your Life (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2001), pp. 67-68.
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Making Anyone Laugh 

The great American humorist, Will Rogers, had the reputation that he could make anyone laugh. President Calvin Coolidge, on the other hand, had the reputation that he never laughed. Want to know what happened the time those two met? Rogers was invited to visit the White House and as was the custom, the president's assistant brought Rogers into the Oval Office. As was the custom as he entered, the assistant said, "President Coolidge, this is Will Rogers. Mr. Rogers, this is President Coolidge." To which Rogers leaned forward and said, "I'm sorry. I didn't catch the name." With that, President Coolidge cracked up and started laughing. 

Don't you wish you were as quick on your feet as he was? Quick with a comeback, quick with just the right thing to say. Well, of all the things that Jesus said, some of the most significant are the words in today's Gospel reading, when Jesus says, "I am the way and the truth and the life." 

Lee Griess, Return to the Lord, Your God, CSS Publishing Company, Inc
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An Evening Prayer 

A century ago John Henry Newman wrote an evening prayer which expresses well the whole spirit in which we see the present in the light of that place which Christ has prepared for us:

Support us, O Lord, all the long day of this troubled life until the shadows lengthen, and the evening comes, when the busy fever of life is hushed, and our work is done. Then in thy mercy grant us a safe lodging, a holy rest, and peace at the last, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen 

Dean Lueking, From Ashes to Holy Wind, CSS Publishing Company
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When We Glimpse Paradise 

In 1816, Lord Byron wrote a narrative poem that has become a classic. The poem is titled, "The Prisoner of Chillon," and it is the story of a man incarcerated in the dungeon at the Castle of Chillon near Lake Geneva, Switzerland. 

The prisoner was in a narrow, cramped dungeon cell for such a long time that he began to think of it as home. He made friends with the spiders, insects, and mice that shared his cell. They were all inmates of the same dungeon and he was monarch of each race. 

The years in the dark dungeon cell had taken their toll. He was no longer unhappy or uncomfortable. He had grown accustomed to his environment and came to think of his chains as friends. 

One day a bird perched on the crevice of the ledge above and began to sing. It was the sweetest music he had ever heard. Suddenly, the desire to see the outside world overwhelmed him. He grabbed the walls of his cell, and began climbing and struggling up the wall so that he could look out of the little window. In that moment, he saw a world that he had forgotten. There was a crystal blue lake ... and some tall green trees ... and the beautiful little white cottage that he called home nestled against the green hills ... and an eagle soaring majestically across a blue sky.
He saw them all for one magnificent moment and then he fell back into his cell...