Home Homilies Michael Whelan SM, PhD Gospel for the Fifth Sunday of Easter (18 May 2014)

Gospel for the Fifth Sunday of Easter (18 May 2014)

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.”Thomas said to him, “Lord, 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, you will know my Father also. From now on
you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? 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 say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe
me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:1-12 – NRSV)

Introductory notes

1. The verb, “to believe”, is used more than fifty times in John’s Gospel. And it is always the verb (pisteuo (πιστεύω)), never the noun, “belief” (pistis (πίστις)). The verb pisteuo appears six times in today’s Gospel. For John, faith is a dynamic reality, a living relationship, always seeking to abide in Christ anmd therefore in the life of God.

Our text

…. I go ….

The questioning of the disciples – Thomas and Phillip here and Peter in the preceding chapter – and the teaching of Jesus in this Gospel text is about presence. Clearly, this would have been a real issue for the first disciples.

These two little words hold a key: “I go”. Jesus must “go” in order to “remain”. Jesus’ “presence” will come after his Passover, after he has been “lifted up” on the Cross.

A whole new mode of presence – the fulfilling of the promise to Moses, “I shall be with you!” (see Exodus 3:12) – is yet to be discovered by the disciples. This is where their believing will take on a much deeper and more life-giving meaning.

The disciples – and we – are discovering that the believing about which Jesus has been speaking is an invitation into the very life of God. It is an abiding with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in an eternal Communion of Love.

Sometimes in the history of the Christian Church, believing has been too heavily focused on particular ways of articulating the essence of our relationship with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Human beings have been unjustly treated and blood has too often been shed because we forgot the true focus of believing.

In his Opening Speech to the Second Vatican Council on October 11, 1962, Pope John XXIII reminded us that “the substance of the ancient doctrine of the deposit of faith is one thing, and the way in which it is presented is another.” The believing is a way of relating – intimate, ever-deepening in love, utterly incomprehensible – that can never be captured in words or images.

We readily accept that our believing should open us to the presence of the Risen Lord in the Sacraments and generally in the people we meet. Do we believe in the presence of the Risen Lord in asylum seekers?

Michael Whelan SM

“Nationalism has been superseded by the doctrine of the Mystical Body, which is as old as Christianity. …. Because Jesus lives in you and me, we are one. …. In the conversion of St. Paul, one sentence contains the truth. ‘I am Christ whom you persecute.’ ….. We are one with Christ as Christ is one with the Father. …. That the Mystical Body includes only the Roman Catholic Church is heresy. The Mystical Body is the inseparable oneness of the human race from Adam to the last person. Can I have any animosity toward any Japanese, German, Italian – black or white? If we have animosity, we are liars in Christ.” (Dorothy Day, “During World War II,” in Shawn Madigan, editor, Mystics, Visionaries and Prophets: A Historical Anthology of Women’s Mystical Writings, Fortress Press, 1998, 355.)