5th. SUNDAY EASTER (A)
(God=s Household 1)
In this morning=s 1st. Reading, St. Luke continues to describes life in the early Christian Community. All things were held in common. Those who had property or possessions sold them and the proceeds were distributed, usually in the form of food, according to the needs of individual members. (Acts. 2:44-45).
It would seem from this passage that the distribution of food took place on a daily basis. But there was a problem. The Hellenists complain against the Hebrews that, when it came to the distribution of food, their widows were being neglected. The Hellenists are Greek-speaking Jewish converts, who grew up outside of Israel but later immigrated to Israel. (cf. 9:29). Many pious Jewish converts came back in old age to Israel in order to die, be buried and await the resurrection in the Holy Land. The Hebrews are Aramaic speaking Jewish converts who had lived all their lives in Israel.
St. Luke doesn't mention the cause of the complaint. Whatever the cause of the complaint – whether it was prejudice or scarcity of food – the community reached a very practical solution. Seven men were chosen to overlook the distribution of food. It is interesting to note that the 7 men chosen all have Greek names. By choosing Greek-speaking members, the community is assuring the Hellenistic widows that they will no longer be neglected.
One cannot but admire the Holy Spirit inspired and practical way in which the community solved the problem. Let's keep the example of these early Christians in mind when we have to solve important problems in our lives. First, we invoke the Holy Spirit. Then we make our decision with the good of our family or our parish family in mind.
2nd Reading -- IPet. 2:4-10
In the 2nd Reading, St. Peter exhorts the Early Christians to come to Christ, the living stone, rejected by his own people, but chosen by God to become the corner stone of the whole building. (v. 4). From the content it would seem that the majority of the community to which the Letter is addressed are Gentile converts. St. Peter describes them as called by God to glorify the One, who led them out of the darkness of paganism into the wonderful light of Christ. (v. 14).
From being a “no people” deprived of God’s mercy, they have now become the people of God . The quotation in v. 7 is taken from Psalm 118:22: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the corner stone”.
The Psalm originally described Israel as a stone rejected by the mighty empires all around it but nevertheless destined by God to become the corner stone of His Messianic people. The author applies the Psalm to Christ. (Lk. 20:17). Though He was rejected by his own people, Christ was destined by God to become the foundation stone of the new “spiritual house” -- the Church. The Glorified Christ is the cornerstone of this spiritual building. (Is. 28:16)
Christians are living stones, joined to the Glorified Christ and to each other, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to make up “the new household of God”. (cf. 4:17).
V. 9 -- “A Chosen Race..”
In v. 9 -- St. Peter describes the Early Christians as “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people that God calls his own”. In the Old Testament, these 4 titles were used to describe Israel. (Ex. 19:6, Is. 61:6, Rev. 1:6, 20:6).
St. Peter now applies them to the “new household of God” -- the Christian community. Just as Israel was holy, chosen and loved by God (Deut. 7:6-9), so also God’s new household, made up of us Christians, is holy, chosen and loved by Him. God’s new household is “a chosen race” -- it has been specially chosen by God. (cf. Is. 43:20-21),
As members of God’s new household, Christians are “a royal priesthood”, called to worship & serve God in Christ Jesus. (cf. Is. 43:20-21). In virtue of their baptism into Christ’s death & Resurrection, they are “a holy nation -- a people that God claims as His own”. (cf. Mal. 3:17).
We can apply these words to ourselves here in St. Sebastian. As members of God’s new household, we too are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people that God calls his own". As members of God’s new household, we too are called to grow in holiness so that we may offer spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”. As members of His new house hold, we are all called to lead a life befitting our status as God’s children.
(i). The Gospel -- 14:1-11
Knowing that the Disciples are upset because he is leaving them, he exhorts them to have faith in God & in himself. Any of you who have been to funeral Masses know that, when it comes to death & the after-life, the opening words of today's Gospel are my favourite.
Vv. 2-3 -- "There are many rooms in my Father's house... I am going now to prepare a place for you, and after I have gone and prepared you a place, I shall return to take you with me so that where I am you may be too". I find these words of Christ very consoling & full of hope. They are so re-assuring and give such hope for the future that we should frequently meditate & reflect on them.
V. 4 -- Christ tells us that he has gone before us to prepare a place in Heaven for everyone of us. Christ has prepared a place in Heaven for every one of you and He has prepared a place in Heaven for me.
V. 5 -- When the time comes, Christ will return & take us to the place in Heaven that He has already prepared for each of us.
Personally, I find these words of Christ so comforting & full of hope as we look at life after death.
Christ has already prepared to place in Heaven for each & everyone of us. If we don't get there, we have no one to blame but ourselves.
In the following verses of today's Gospel we have an example of St. John's misunderstanding technique. Christ makes a statement which is not properly understood by the Disciples. This gives Christ the opportunity to repeat & clarify the statement. Christ tells his Apostles that they know the way to where he is going.
V. 5 --Thomas responds telling Christ that since they don’t know where He is going, how can they possibly know the way? We are all very familiar with Christ’s response: “I am the Way, the Truth & the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me”.One of the themes running through the Gospel is that there is no access to the Father except through Christ. (cf. 1:18, 3:13).
For St. John, the word “truth” means Christ’s revelation of the Father through his preaching & the many miracles he performed. In John’s theology, Jesus is both the Word of God & the Revealer of the word of God. Philip, another disciple appears on the scene & his misunderstanding is just as profound as Thomas'.
V. 8 -- He asks Christ to show them the Father & that will be enough for them. Christ is amazed that, having spent a long period of time with his Disciples that Philip still does not know who He really is. In a disappointed tone of voice, Christ says: "Philip, to have seen me is to have seen the Father". (v. 9). To contemplate Christ, with the eyes of faith, is to see the Father. Christ continues: "How can you ask ‘Show us the Father?’ Philip, do you not believe that I am in the Father & the Father lives in me?"
V. 10 -- Because Christ is in the Father & the Father is in him, the words that he speaks & the miracles he performs are really the words & actions of the Father.
More than any of the other Gospels, St. John emphasizes the divinity of Christ. Jesus of Nazareth the Incarnate Son of God. He is also the Son of the Blessed Virgin.
When we are answering the question: "Who is Jesus of Nazareth?" we must give equal emphasis to his divinity & his humanity. If we were to emphasize his divinity & neglect his humanity. we would not have the picture of Him that is presented to us in the New Testament.
On the other hand, if we were to emphasize his humanity & neglect his divinity we would not have a correct picture of Jesus of Nazareth.