Gospel Reflections

5th Sunday of Easter

John 14:1-12

Sunday Gospel Reflection by Sister Sharon McMillan

Published: May 14, 2017


Immediately underneath the rugged, mottled, irregular stones of the plaza before the main doors to my parish church is the original chapel of St. Junípero Serra. This very recent Franciscan saint founded the parish in 1770, and Catholics have been celebrating Mass ever since here on the shores of Monterey Bay, California. If one follows Serra’s footsteps, one enters the tiny mission-style stone building and is immediately drawn to the 12-foot crucifix on the back wall near the altar. The cross is typically Spanish in style: quite realistic and powerful in its image of the suffering Christ, but also engaging and very beautiful.

Why am I telling you all this? It seems to me that Jesus’ words in today's Gospel urge us to recognize the truth about our good God which shines out of this very striking symbol. Jesus tells us “If you know me, then you will also know my Father…. Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” The crucified and risen Christ is the image of the Father. What was an instrument of torture has become the pledge of intimate union and transforming love.

Behind this vivid crucifix, we are not meant to sense any divine wrath that has demanded Jesus' death as a kind of atonement. The suffering Jesus, as he himself tells us, is the incarnation of the suffering Father. This image is what God’s love looks like in the flesh. Jesus’ death and resurrection is not the “price” which turned away divine anger. Rather, Jesus does what he sees the Father doing: being (and giving) mercy, compassion, forgiveness, healing and wholeness in utter humility, trust, and faithfulness. The crucified Christ is the sacrament of the encounter with God's infinite self-giving.

This truth must be why Jesus is continually urging his disciples not to be afraid. “I am in the Father and the Father is in me.”  Jesus’ last breath and blood poured out is God’s most perfect and most tender self-image. Truly there is nothing to fear: no anger, no punishment, only self-giving love, made real and accessible in Jesus' permanently present dying and rising. He is our “way and truth and life.”  He is the living face of the Father. In his crucified and risen self, he is showing us the Father.

St. John places the words of this Gospel on the lips of Jesus on the very night he was handed over to death. Jesus wants to make sure that his disciples’ hearts (and our hearts) are not “troubled”  by the events that will happen. Through the dying and rising to come, Jesus explains, “the Father who dwells in me is doing his works.”  All that is born from this night is an endless source of liberation and life, of peace and reconciliation and inexpressible joy.

I treasure the stones of San Carlos Cathedral and its larger-than-life crucifix which stand as witnesses to this deep Christian truth: our good God embracing us from the cross.

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