May 7, 2023
John 14: 1-12
As I reflected on the readings for this 5th Sunday of Easter, in the section from Acts, I am struck by the Apostles feeling overwhelmed by the reality of the already simmering division in the community and their concomitant desire to be about prayer and service. We read that their division sapped them of their energy to break open the word and serve at table. Their community was breaking apart, and the table was becoming insular and exclusive. In the early Church, the Jewish Christians, in getting their needs addressed, were reported to be receiving preference over the Greek Christians, and the discord was causing the community to focus on the arguments rather than on the Way.
It just sounds so familiar. In our own time, racism, immigration, and gun violence are among the issues that threaten to divide and overwhelm us. As I write this, we have just experienced in the United States the shooting of two different people who made the mistake of either pulling into the wrong driveway or knocking on the wrong door. In other countries similar, senseless, violence wells up and threatens the very fabric of our common life. Are we so fearful that we shoot people before we even know there is a threat? Are we so racist that it doesn’t matter at all what the human being before us needs or wants to ask but we only see the color of skin? Are we so overwhelmed with life and fear that we shoot into a car before anyone even gets out? I am appalled at us, and I hope you are, too! Should we not also struggle to find solutions to the discord that happens in our day? Our answer will be different from the one chosen by the Acts community, but the Gospel requires that we try.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus points us to a path that can help us to feel less overwhelmed, threatened, and fearful, so that we can live peacefully with all and focus on living a life of following Jesus. Simple, yet profound, Jesus’ way is one of love- for all, in word and in action.
Thomas, in the Gospel, says “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” I think it is not so much that Thomas didn’t know where Jesus was going, as that he didn’t know where Thomas was going! Philip wants to be shown the Father, despite his belief in Jesus as the Anointed One. In fact, neither Thomas nor Philip knew the way to what they desired. They were lost- in their thoughts and in their desire for certainty. This, too, sounds so familiar. Our being or feeling “lost” at times can be the starting point for being found.
Jesus’ words and questions help to prepare Thomas and Philip for living into their unknown and unknowable future. Their “lostness” allowed them to hear Jesus’ invitation to live with faith and radical trust in God- in the way made known in Jesus. I suspect it is no different for us.
Jesus promises each one of us a dwelling place which he is lovingly preparing. The dwelling place of God clearly must be much larger and more inclusive than any of us can imagine! There is room for all.
Jesus invites Thomas and Philip, and you and me, to drink from the cup of faith and radical trust, inclusivity and service to all. The experience of dying and rising is a recurring event, embraced by those who may not always see the exact path, but who know the Way.
John 20: 19-31
Jesus said to his disciples:
“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.
Where I am going you know the way.”
Thomas said to him,
“Master, we do not know where you are going;
how can we know the way?”
Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.
If you know me, then you will also know my Father.
From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
Philip said to him,
“Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.”
Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time
and you still do not know me, Philip?
Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.
How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?
The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own.
The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.
Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me,
or else, believe because of the works themselves.
Amen, amen, I say to you,
whoever believes in me will do the works that I do,
and will do greater ones than these,
because I am going to the Father.”