Renew our confidence in the presence of God among us
Father Dan Juelfs
Homily from the Televised Mass, NewsCenter1
Fifth Sunday of Easter, May 7, 2023
Do not let your hearts be troubled.
This gospel passage takes place in Jesus’ final discourse at the time of the last supper. And he has just told his disciples, again, that he’s leaving them. That he’s going to return to the father. And yet he knows that they really don’t understand it. They really aren’t able to sort things out. They’re very confused. And so, Jesus again reassures them that they are being cared for. He’s not leaving them alone. He proclaims that yes he and the father are one and he’s returning to the father.
We too, can be confused and concerned about what’s going to happen to us after this life or for that matter, in the life to come, and like the disciples we also need to be reassured. We need to be reminded. We need to be told again and again this is who God is and this is what God’s doing for us. We have to ask that question that Thomas asks, or we may find ourselves asking that question, “we don’t know where you’re going. How can we know the way?”
The answer that we receive, the answer that God has given to us isn’t an answer drawn on a map. It isn’t a set of directions. It’s the person of Jesus. That that’s the answer. That’s the way in which we come to the father. And Jesus has proclaimed again and again, “I am the way, the truth and the life.”
That our call, like the disciple’s call, was to believe in and follow the things that Jesus had shared with them. To let ourselves trust in the promise that Jesus has made. That’s been the action of the church since the very beginning. Not always smoothly. Not always, as probably, probably as well as they or anybody else would have liked. You know, we see, or heard in the first reading the account of the difficulties in the early church when that the division, if you will, between the Greek speaking and the Hebrew speaking early Christians. You know, the Greek speaking Christians felt like their widows, their, their poor people, their people who depended upon the church were somehow being neglected. That they weren’t being cared for in the same way that the Hebrew people were. A very human kind of response.
But what was the response of the apostles? Ask the Greek speaking people to appoint seven people that they can assign that duty of taking care of the needs of the Greek speaking widows. That through the gift of the spirit that was somehow built into the apostles, they were able to respond. They were able to come up with a way of dealing with a problem that could have very well split the community and a response to the kind of things that Jesus did when he proclaimed that he was offering salvation, mercy, forgiveness for all. Not just the chosen people. Not just the Hebrew, the Jewish people, but for all. And the early church began, the disciples of the early church began in this first recorded anyhow and in the scriptures way of responding to that when people were finding themselves split apart over what should have brought them together. There’s many different needs and many different ways of fulfilling them, and Jesus continually proclaims that he’s come to respond to the needs of all.
Each year, with our Easter celebration and the seven weeks that we celebrate Easter, we remind ourselves that this is who God has sent to us and who it is we are called to follow. He is the guide. The person of Jesus, who was offered his life. He is the way, the truth, and the life.
In our second reading, you know, this morning or this afternoon, Peter, in the letter to Peter, he reminds us that we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own. At times thay can be hard for us to see. We’re far more aware of our weaknesses and our failures then we are of our blessings. But Peter reminds us, and we remind ourselves every year as we celebrate this feast, that this is who we are. We are God’s people, called by God, gifted by God to share life for all eternity, and that can be hard sometimes to see that in ourselves. As we remind ourselves every year, we remind ourselves of who God is and who God says we are. Like the early disciples, we have to hear it lots of times before we are able to comprehend it. Before we’re able to accept it. Before we are able to allow it to change our lives. To let ourselves believe that this is how God sees us and how we’re called to see ourselves, how we’re called to see each other.
Let this Easter season be a time to strengthen us and renew us. Renew our confidence in the presence of God among us and renew our confidence in ourselves as God’s people responding to his gift.