5th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Cycle A) – May 18, 2014
- Preached at the 7:30, 9 & 11:15am Masses
- First Reading: Acts 6:1-7
- Second Reading: 1 Peter 2:4-9
- Gospel: John 14:1-12
He is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia, Alleluia! It is still Easter isn’t it?!? Say it with me!
Don’t let the world rob you of your Easter joy! In fact, the world desperately needs to experience the joy of the risen Christ through you. So don’t let the world down. Don’t let your family and friends down.
As I prepared for this homily, as usual, I read all three readings and the Responsorial Psalm. What grabbed my attention, at least in the beginning, was the antiphon to the responsorial psalm we sang together after our first reading, “Lord, let your mercy be on us as we place our trust in you.” The Holy Spirit kept drawing me back to that line, “Lord, let your mercy be on us as we place our trust in you.” The second part of this statement is clear. We are to place our trust in Jesus. As his disciple, we are called to journey with Jesus; called to place our life in his hands; called to place our trust in him and live according to his will.
That part of this response made sense to me. But what about the first part, “Lord let your mercy be on us …” That wasn’t as clear to me. I asked the Holy Spirit to help me understand why we needed to ask for God’s mercy before we place our trust in him. And then I began to recall a number of the Gospels and homilies I’ve heard since Holy Week.
I thought back to Good Friday when Peter, the Apostle who became our first Pope, denied that he even knew who Jesus was. He did not trust in Jesus, and in his weakness, denied knowing him. But following his Resurrection, Jesus showered Peter with the mercy of forgiveness when he asked Peter three times, “Peter, do you love me?” Only with his mercy was Peter able to turn back to Jesus and place his trust in him. “Lord, let your mercy be on us as we place our trust in you.”
The following week we celebrated Divine Mercy Sunday. In the Gospel that week, it was Thomas who was unable to trust in
what Jesus had told the Apostles – that he would suffer, die and rise again. But Jesus did not leave him wallowing in his doubt. Instead, Jesus bathed Thomas with the mercy of his presence. He invited Thomas to place his hands into his side and into the marks of the nails in his hands. Only then was Thomas able to say, “My Lord and my God.” “Lord, let your mercy be on us as we place our trust in you.”
Finally, two weeks ago, in our Gospel we encountered the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. They were headed in the wrong direction, away from the risen Lord. Sad; broken; just sure that the vision Jesus had painted over the last three years was going down in flames. But Jesus did not leave these men broken hearted and in despair. In his infinite mercy, he drew along-side them on that road, reminding them of all that had been written in scripture about him. Later they said, “Were not are hearts burning as he spoke to us on the way.” Only after Jesus showered them with his presence were they able to trust in what Jesus had been trying to tell them all along. “Lord, let your mercy be on us as we place our trust in you.”
Are you starting to see a pattern? And now we come to today’s reading from the Gospel of John. We find Jesus trying to lift the spirit of his Apostles at the Last Supper. “Do not let your hearts be troubled”, he says to them. Jesus tells them that he is going to his Father’s house to prepare a place for them and then would return to bring them back with him. Once again, Thomas fails to trust in Jesus when he says, “Master, we do not know where you are going, how can you say we know the way?” Thomas is confused. But as before, Jesus loves Thomas too much to leave him in his confusion.
In his merciful response, Jesus says to Thomas, the Apostles and to all of his followers down through the ages, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Disciples who are ready and able to place their complete trust in Jesus must understand and own this statement. Jesus doesn’t teach us about a way of life. Jesus IS the way. He invites us to the way of selfless love and service to others; surrendering our wills so we can conform our wills to his. Jesus doesn’t teach us about abstract truth. Jesus IS truth itself, not one truth among many. And finally, Jesus says he is the life. He doesn’t teach us about life. He is life itself and invites us to immerse ourselves in an intimate and living relationship with him. “Lord, let your mercy be on us as we place our trust in you.”
My brothers and sisters, without God’s mercy, we simply are not capable of putting our trust in Jesus. We have seen this demonstrated repeatedly in the Gospels we’ve heard since Holy Week. We see this same pattern played out over and over again down through the ages and, if we are honest, we see it played out in our own lives. When we don’t begin by asking God for his mercy, we end up telling Jesus, “No thank you, I would rather follow MY way. We tell Jesus, “No thank you, I would rather make up MY own truth.” We tell Jesus, “No thank you, I would rather live MY own life.”
The Good News today is that God loves us too much to leave us vacillating in doubt; loves us too much to leave us frozen in fear and depression; loves us too much to leave us bewildered in confusion. God longs for us to turn to him and ask for his mercy. You see, every time we come to Mass, we are on that road to Emmaus. God is present with us as we hear the scriptures proclaimed and explained, just as Jesus did for those two men on that road. But are we open to that mercy? Does your heart burn within you when you hear the Word of God proclaimed and explained? Do you recognize Jesus in the breaking of the bread here on this altar? When you approach Jesus in his sacramental presence at Communion, do you recognize him as the one who died for you; laying down his own life so that you might have life?
Yes, my brothers and sisters, these pews and these aisles are your personal road to Emmaus. If your heart doesn’t burn with a passionate love for God during Mass; if you don’t recognize Jesus himself in the breaking of the bread on this altar and active in your life throughout the week, then I invite you to begin regularly asking God to cover you with his mercy. With that simple prayer, you invite God to make it possible for you to truly and fully trust in him; to conform your will to his will. And when you surrender and place your trust in the Lord, you will know the true joy of Easter as Jesus will become for you, THE way, THE truth, and THE life.