5th Sunday of Easter-Cycle A-2017

FIRST READING            Acts of the Apostles 6:1-7

As the number of disciples continued to grow, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.  So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table.  Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”  The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit, also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism.  They presented these men to the apostles who prayed and laid hands on them.  The word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly; even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith.

SECOND READING                  1 Peter 2:4-9

Beloved:  Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God, and, like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.  For it says in Scripture:  Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion, a cornerstone, chosen and precious, and whoever believes in it shall not be put to shame.  Therefore, its value is for you who have faith, but for those without faith:  The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone, and a stone that will make people stumble, and a rock that will make them fall.  They stumble by disobeying the word, as is their destiny.  You are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises” of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

GOSPEL                John 14:1-12

Jesus said to his disciples:  “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  You have faith in God; have faith also in me.  In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.  If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.  Where I am going you know the way.”  Thomas said to him, “Master, 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, then you will also know my Father.  From now on you do know him and have seen him.”  Philip said to him, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.”  Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip?  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 speak to you I do not speak on my own.  The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.  Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves.  Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.”

My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

“You have faith in God; have faith also in me.” “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  These two quotes from today’s Gospel from Saint John try to express God’s words to us about how to live with the Lord Jesus.  All of us, including these earlier followers of Jesus, can be with Jesus and still not know Him.  We relate to Him and we strive to follow Him and yet there are enormous areas of our lives in which we simply do not know Him.

The first reading today, from the Acts of the Apostles, begins to show us that even in the earliest Christian communities, there were problems and conflicts.  These early followers tried to solve problems by dialog and taking counsel—and most of the time it seems to have worked, but not always.  We humans find conflict almost more natural than living in harmony!

Every Christian community will have conflicts and differences and challenges.  There is no easy way to deal with them.  Yet we must deal with them or we break apart as a community.  One of the great gifts in our Catholic Church is that we believe that there is an authority structure in the Church and that individuals and individual congregations or individual Churches cannot solve problems alone.  We must work together.

The second reading is from the First Letter of Saint Peter.  Today’s passage reminds us that we shall inevitable stumble if we do not base our lives on the Word of God.  Today so many of us want to base our lives simply on our own personal insights and ways of thinking and our own personal experiences.  Surely our insights, ways of thinking and personal experiences are important—but they must always be judged by the Word of God and looked in in the light of that Word.  We humans are mysteries in progress, not simply realities that can no longer change.  Life is about living this mystery of God’s love for us and responding to His Word.  That Word will change us and transform us.  If we do not heed the Word, we stumble and fall.

This brings us back to the Gospel and to the knowledge that Jesus truly gives Himself to us and invites us to live in that personal self-giving.  Once we acknowledge Jesus as Lord, our lives begin to change.  We may fail over and over and over—but always we get up and keep on going because the Lord is with us and invites us to keep walking with Him.

My sisters and brothers, Christ is risen and is alive.  Christ is risen and invites us to walk as He walked and to live as He lived.  May this Easter Sunday help us give ourselves more completely to Him.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip