CACINA

Homily for the 5th Sunday of Easter, Year A 2014

Homily for the 5th Sunday of Easter, Year A  2014

I have always admired this section of the Gospel of John we read today, and, in a way, wished that the name the early church had given to themselves – the followers of the Way – had stuck. All of us are on life’s journey and there are so many different paths to follow. Through sin, the path to God had been blocked – the bridge was out – so God wanted to find a way to open the way again, and he did it by becoming one of us, and through his death and resurrection opened up the path for us again. Jesus gives us a path to follow, shows us a path to follow, and John reminds us that Jesus, himself, is the path – the way. And if we follow the path or the way of Jesus, we will eventually get to his Father’s house where there will be room for everyone, and Jesus himself will have prepared our guest room for us.

This is such a hopeful theology presented in such a brief passage. “ I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” Jesus is the way to God, and possessing God we will know all truth, and we will have eternal life. Although Jesus was trying to instill hope, the poor apostles didn’t quite get it. They seldom do in the Gospels. Thomas, who we already know is a doubter, is probably thinking in moment-to-moment terms when he asserts – “We don’t know where you are going”.  He is probably questioning whether they are on their way to Jerusalem or to the next town or to Samaria. Jesus’ vision is the journey to God the Father.

Have you ever wondered at what point the Apostles had their eyes opened and were able to figure out that Jesus was actually God? We have a lot of people today who insist he was just a man like another man, that there was no divinity in him, that he may have been a great man, but hardly a God! John’s Gospel was written, we believe, some 50 years after the death of Jesus. In those 50 years from Pentecost, when their eyes were truly opened by the Spirit and they began to understand, the theology – the question – of Jesus’ identity – was one of the first things that the believers began to grapple with. By the 90’s, we can see in the Gospel of John that they had grappled with the question and the identification of Jesus with God was pretty complete. In the passages today, after Philip asks Jesus to show them God the Father, Jesus, through the words of John, very clearly indicates that he is God. “You know God, because you know me.” He adds, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me”.

The statement “No one comes to the Father except through me” needs, I think, to be taken in that context. I don’t think Jesus is saying that only Christians will get to heaven here; I think this statement means that since Jesus is God, if you are following Jesus, you are on the path to God, following God. There may be other paths that lead to God as well – I don’t think he is ruling that out here, but Christians can be sure of where their path leads. Maybe that is why there are so many room there waiting for us!

All of these statements are pretty revolutionary in their thinking, and you can see how a Jew might be upset that a man is identifying himself with God. We often lock up people today who think they are God. But most revolutionary are the final words of the passage, and those words that are applicable to us today. “The one who believes in me will also do the works that I do, and in fact, will do greater works than these…” Can we really believe that we are able to do greater works than God can! And yet that is what Jesus tells us. Perhaps it is because God has taken on humanity that he has limited himself. Perhaps it is because of the “I am the vine – you the branches” allegory that he has used just previous to this passage, that we can do unimaginable things because we are part of the vine, part of God…. but how wonderful that we can assist in the actions of God, partake of the works of God, create as can God, and do even greater things than Jesus himself did. That is why our prayer life is so important – remember Jesus did these miraculous things by always prefacing them with prayer to God. Why we have seen so many cures, remissions and comfort as a result of our combined parish prayers. That is why we can feed 20,000 people in a few hours of work. Isn’t that rather like the loaves and fishes – and Jesus only fed 5000 that day!!

From the earliest times of Christianity, as we saw in our first reading from the Acts, Christians were doing such works of charity and feeding the poorer members of their communities – so much so that they had to organize a bit better, and get some help. Deacons were created so that more people could be served. Already, in earliest times, the concerns of Jesus were being met and greater things were happening.

So what I really would like us to consider today is how can I contribute to the work of the church?  How can I do ever greater works than we already do. Jesus has not set any limits on this – he has simply said that we will do greater works than he did. Please keep this in mind and set goals for yourselves. As Peter told us today in his epistle: You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness and into his marvelous light. Let’s continue to let our light shine in the things we do, and aspire do even greater things. Let’s dream it and do it!

And this is the Good News that Jesus leaves us with today!

Bishop Ron Stephens 

Pastor of St. Andrew’s Parish in Warrenton, VA

The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

[You can purchase a complete Cycle A of Bishop Ron’s homilies, 75 of them, from amazon.com for $9.99 – Teaching the Church Year”]

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