Reflections

Fifth Sunday of Easter 2020

Readings:
 
Acts 6:1-7
Psalms 33:1-5, 18-19
1 Peter 2:4-9
John 14:1-12
What comfort Jesus’ words are, to His disciples and to us: “Do not let your heart be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.” In a world of coronavirus, in a world where our pastor and beloved church have suffered such harm, in a world where it seems we are more divided than ever before, the encouragement to not let our hearts be troubled is the best of advice, but an advice that is just so difficult to follow.
It was St. Theresa of Avila who knew Jesus’ words so well that she wrote: “Let nothing disturb you, let nothing frighten you. Those who know God have everything. Only God is enough.” Her prayer was kept in her prayer book, where she no doubt needed it to remind herself of its message with great frequency. Her desire to reform her own religious community, which she entered at 16 but didn’t understand anything about it until 39, put her at odds with her community who exiled her and forced her to live in obscurity. She might very well have also used her prayer to comfort her close friend, St. John of the Cross, who was tried by the Inquisition and imprisoned for implementing Theresa’s teaching about reform in his own community. Both Theresa of Avila and John of the Cross, “talked the talk, and walked the walk,” understanding rejection, a rejection not unlike that of their Master, Jesus.
Jesus and the saints make it all look so easy, but for us ordinary folks keeping our hearts “untroubled”, is a difficult task. We are more like Thomas, of doubting fame, who, as happens so often in the gospels, misses the point of what Jesus is trying to tell them and says: “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus tells them that “he is going to prepare a place for them” (remember this is John’s famous discourse after the last Supper), and he is coming back for them, “so that where I am you also may be.” Thomas doesn’t get it.
Not to be outdone by Thomas, Philip, too, seems to be a bit confused when Jesus tells His disciples “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.” Philip wants Jesus to show him the father, “and that will be enough us.” You can hear the disappointment in Jesus’ voice: “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip?” What the disciples miss, and will miss until Pentecost, and what is so important if we are not going to let “our hearts be troubled,” is that Jesus and the Father are one.
Jesus came into our paltry little world to fulfilll what the prophets had said, and to ‘enflesh’ the Father who, up until Jesus seemed so very far away, so out of reach. Our faith in Jesus is not misplaced, and He ends our gospel today with just as comforting words as when we started: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that’s I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the father.” What a marvelous challenge to think that our God wants help in accomplishing the redemption of the world He came to save, and not only that, but we are capable of doing the works that Jesus does, and sometimes even “greater” than Jesus does. We truly are what Peter tells us we are in the second reading: “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”
The more that we are united with Jesus and the Father, the less our hearts will be troubled. Let us take to heart St. Theresa of Avila’s little prayer that got her through good times and bad: “Let nothing disturb you or frighten you. Those who know God have everything. Only God is enough.” And it is God who will insure that we will do the great things we have been destined to do, if only we put our whole trust in God.

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