Exegesis

  

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Select Exegesis
May, 14 2017

5th Sunday of Easter (A)

Rev Timothy P. Schehr

Do not let your hearts be troubled.” How many times have we needed to hear these words? This comforting message is just as powerful for us modern-day fretters as it was for the apostles at the Last Supper.

             The apostles have plenty to fret about in this gospel. They have just heard some distressing news from Jesus. He tells them he is going away and they cannot follow him. And Peter has just learned he will soon deny his Lord three times. We can just feel the churning going on in their stomachs.

             But Jesus has good news for them too. Yes he is going away, but he is also coming back. He tells them about the many dwelling places in his Father house. He is going to prepare these places for them so they can all be together again with the Father. In other words, they have a home all ready for them in heaven.

             We have an advantage over the apostles in this gospel. We know how everything turned out. We spend this entire Easter Season celebrating the Lord’s victory over sin and death, and professing our faith in the promise of eternal life extended to us through baptism. But the apostles, hearing this message now for the first time, are totally at a loss.

             Thomas speaks up first. Ever the practical one, he points out to Jesus that they cannot possibly know the way since they do not know where Jesus is going. The Lord responds with those familiar words “I am the way, and the truth, and the life…” If the apostles just follow him they will come to the Father. Jesus reveals he is the way by his death and resurrection. He reveals he is the truth by the words he speaks unmasking the illusions of this world, famously exhibited in his dialogue with Pilate. He reveals he is the life by summoning Lazarus from the tomb and by his own resurrection from the dead.

             The apostles are still worried. Next comes Philip’s request that Jesus simply show them the Father and they will be satisfied. Jesus says anyone who sees him has already seen the Father. Father and Son work together to bring people to salvation. He also tells the apostles they will share in this work of salvation. Jesus goes to the Father and will return to give them the Holy Spirit.

             It all happened just as he said. We see evidence of this in the first and second readings this Sunday. We see the apostles facing setbacks and difficulties. But we do not see them overwhelmed by difficulties anymore.

             In the first reading, for example, the apostles are faced with a problem that threatens to divide the early Jerusalem church. Differences in language create a problem for the community. Those who speak Greek complain their families do not receive the same degree of care given to families that speak Hebrew. The Twelve do not allow this issue to distract them from their mission to pray and preach the word of God. Seven of the faithful are chosen to oversee the daily distribution of food to the needy. Through the power of the Spirit the issue is resolved.

             In the second reading Peter echoes the words of Jesus when he urges his readers not to be let their hearts be troubled. Peter knows his community faces hardships because of their loyalty to Jesus. But this good shepherd urges them to find strength in Jesus. The Lord is the stone rejected by the builders that has become their cornerstone.

 

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