Homily - 5th Sunday of Easter (Year A)
5th Sunday of Easter (Year A)
“I AM THE WAY AND THE TRUTH AND THE
LIFE. NO ONE CAN COME TO THE FATHER EXCEPT THROUGH ME.”
During the 2nd World War, in Malaya, a
prisoner happened to escape from the prisoners' camp. He was
assisted by a native fellow who led him through a thick
forest and from there to freedom and back home. The native
fellow walked ahead and the man followed him from behind.
With great difficulty they were finding their way through
thorns and bushes, and ups and downs, and twists and turns,
and the man got very tired. He then asked the native
fellow,“Are you sure this is the way?” The native fellow
looked at him, and in broken English he said, “There is no
way. I am the way. If you want to be free and go home, then
you have to just follow me.”
In the same way, in the Gospel Reading
of today Jesus says to us - “I am the way and the truth
and the life. No one can come to the Father except through
me.” as we journey with him through our earthly life in
the midst of our problems and difficulties, sufferings and
pains, disappointments and discouragements, stress and
strain to the House of our Heavenly Father, and we have to
just follow him.
We are in the Easter Season and today
is the 5th Sunday. Today's Liturgy continues to deepen our
identity as Easter people, although there is a distinct
shift of emphasis in today’s Readings from Jesus'
Resurrection to the activity and organization of the early
Christians. The First Reading from Acts of the Apostles
depicts a moment in the life of the early Church and
responds to a practical need. There is a division of
functions to allow the apostles to dedicate themselves to
their priestly task, while consecrating others to attend to
the necessary material works and charitable needs. We see
here a necessary practical shaping of the spiritual edifice.
The Second Reading from the 1st Letter of Peter, depicts our
identity as Easter people and encourages us to be aware of
our responsibility as 'living stones,' with Christ as
cornerstone, to form a 'spiritual building.' The rich images
that we hear in this reading present our dignity as “a
chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of
his own” to sing his praises. In the Gospel Reading from
St. John, Jesus in his last discourse forewarns his
disciples of his departure and reminds them of how they are
to reach their Heavenly Father’s house. He says to them,
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one can come
to the Father except through me.” Those who believe in him
will inherit eternal life. He at the same time stresses on
his unity with the Father and our need to trust in him.
EXTENSION OF SPECIAL MINISTRIES IN THE
As the Easter season progresses, our
attention is drawn from intimate encounters with the Risen
Jesus and relationships within the early Christian community
to a more outward-looking focus. The First Reading of today
from Acts of the Apostles provides an interesting milestones
of ecclesiastical evolution. We see the early Christian
community expanding its leadership structure by adding
specialized ministries to respond to the changing needs.
Seven reputable men filled with wisdom and the Holy Spirit
are chosen and prayed over by the apostles for a special
Church ministry. The seven chosen ones would 'serve at
table' and handle the administrative affairs for the
Hellenists (Greek-speaking Jews) who were complaining that
their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution
of goods. The imposition of hands by the apostles suggests a
passing of power to the seven chosen for service. It is
worth noting that authority rested with the Twelve, yet the
community's approval was sought and the community actually
chose the seven. By being faithful to Christ and receptive
to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, the Christian
disciples in Jerusalem were able to find an equitable
solution that permitted them to achieve their main goal of
spreading the Word of God.
“YOU ARE A CHOSEN RACE, A ROYAL
PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION ...”
In the Second Reading from his 1st
Letter, Peter speaks to the Gentile Christians of their
identity and dignity of being a follower of Christ and
encourages them to be aware of their responsibility as
'living stones,' with Christ as cornerstone, to form a
'spiritual building.' He reminds them that just as the
ancient Israelite people were called to be holy just as God
was holy, so too they as new Christians were likewise and
just as much expected by God to live a vocation to holiness.
He cited the text from Exodus 19:6 which was a practical,
constitutional statement by God about God’s People: “You
are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a
people of his own ...” These words are even used in the
sacred Eucharistic Liturgy to remind our assembly in our own
day, of the dignity of the Christian Vocation. It means that
through our sacrament of Baptism, like the Israelite people
of old, we become a holy nation, a people set apart. The
word royal priesthood would associate us with high rank in
society and as priests we become mediators between God and
man and therefore the task of reconciliation. Hence through
this call we become God’s own people, in order that we may
proclaim the mighty acts of him who called us out of
darkness into his marvelous light.
“I AM THE WAY AND THE TRUTH AND THE
LIFE. NO ONE CAN COME TO THE FATHER EXCEPT THROUGH ME.”
The Gospel Reading of today from St.
John, is taken from the Farewell Discourse at the Last
Supper, and addresses concerns of the disciples that would
arise because of the departure (i.e. death) of Jesus soon to
occur. In the context of its Liturgical proclamation at this
point in the Easter Season, this reading also invites us to
reflect on the coming 'departure' of Jesus in the
'Ascension' and the impact on us believers of the physical
absence of Jesus. What are the disciples to do without him?
What do we do without this reassuring presence?
a) “Do not let your hearts be
The disciples are aware that Jesus is
about to leave them. There is a heavy air of gloom and
anxiety as the enemies of Jesus close in around him. “Do
not let your hearts be troubled,” are the encouraging
words he speaks to them. “Trust in God still, and trust in
me” is a call to total faith in the Father and in him.
Trusting in God means accepting and facing reality. It means
dealing with our problems knowing that even in worst-case
scenarios, God will not allow us to be crushed and lost. We
do our best with the proper means available to us and God
will take care of the rest. The passage also assures them
that Jesus will return and take his followers with him. The
immanent departure of Jesus is presented not as a loss but
as a preparation for the future. The expression 'many
dwelling places' of the Father’s house suggests not a
diversity of place within heaven but that there will be room
enough for everyone in God’s eternal presence.
b) “I am the way, and the truth and
the life. No one can come to the Father except through
Jesus has now been with them for three
years and they have seen him teaching and working among the
people; so, “You know the way to the place where I am
going,” they are told. Thomas, the man who likes to
confront and the one with the very literal mind, protests,
“Lord, we do not know where you are going, so how can we
know the way?” He is clearly thinking in geographical
terms. In fact, all Jesus' words about going and coming are
spoken on quite a different level of meaning altogether.
However, we can be grateful to Thomas for drawing out of
Jesus one of the great sayings of St. John's Gospel, “I am
the way and the truth and the life. No one can come to the
Father except through me.”
So what do we make of this saying of
Jesus? What do they mean to us?
'I am the Way' – Jesus is a road. A
road is a journey. And we go to God the Father through Jesus
and we call Jesus the Way, because he is the visible
manifestation in human form of all that his Father is.
'I am the Truth' – the Truth that
meets us on the road. We Christians have not got the Truth.
The Truth has got us. Jesus is God's gift of his true self
to us. As God revealed His true self to Jesus, we look up to
Jesus to reveal God to us.
'I am the Life' – this journey of
Truth gives us life. When we believe in Jesus, we find life.
More, He becomes our life.
In short, what living the Christian
life is really all about is living with Jesus in faith. It
is to make the Truth and the Life - the Father Himself -
really ours by following Jesus who is the Way.
c) “Master, show us the Father, and
that will be enough for us.”
Now it is the naïve Philip's turn to
interject. “Master, show us the Father, and that will be
enough for us.” It was the hope of every good Jew some day
to see God face to face. With a tinge of disappointment
Jesus says to him, that he has been with them for so long a
time and they still do not recognize him. Then he continues
to tell Philip that he and the Father are one and whoever
has seen him has seen the Father. However, this statement
must be understood with some qualifications. Jesus is the
Son of God and is one with the Father in all things, but to
say that when we see Jesus we see God is both true and not
altogether true. For Jesus, as we know him, is limited by
his humanness. When he speaks, certainly it is God who
speaks. When he heals, certainly God heals. When Jesus died
on the Cross, did God also die? Surely not. God cannot die.
The death of Jesus in his humanity was a sublime witness of
the love and compassion of the Ever Living God.
Lastly, Jesus has a word for them and
us too. Yes, because by leaving for the Father he has passed
his mandate on to us. We are called on to continue his
mission in the world.
To conclude, in today’s Gospel
Reading Jesus promises his eternal presence will be with his
disciples. However, 'to believe' involves committing the
whole self to the care of God. If Jesus goes to prepare a
dwelling place for them in his Father’s house, there will
be room for all of them.
So, just where are we headed then? It
is the prayer of a faithful Christian trying to make sense
of things. Do we let Christ guide us through life and point
us to the ultimate victory that is ours in eternity? Our
primary response to God’s self-revelation should be one of
faith, faith in the one who cares about us, about our
well-being and needs, about our joys and sorrows. God has a
place for us. These words have often been of great comfort
when read during the funeral service, it being one of the
choices for the Gospel Reading. One day we will be securely
at home with God for all time. But here is even more joyful
news: not only will we be in that home then, we are invited
to live in that home now. As St. Peter reminds us, we are a
holy people, called to proclaim the one who called us out of
darkness into light. In words and deeds we bear witness to
the Risen Jesus, who says to us – “I am the way, and the
truth and the life. No one can come to the Father except
through me.” And this is the Good News of today