A Homily – The Fifth Sunday of Easter (Year A)

First Reading – Acts 6:1-7 ©
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 32(33):1-2, 4-5, 18-19 ©
Second Reading – 1 Peter 2:4-9 ©
Gospel Acclamation – John 14:6
The Gospel According to John 14:1 – 12 ©

(NJB)

The Fifth Sunday of Easter (Year A)
Take these lessons from the readings on the function of the Church, the purpose it is meant to serve, and the challenges to the members and leaders that crop up along the way.

Remember hat Jesus taught and keep it always in the forefront of your mind, the last shall be first and the first shall be last.

Let the distribution of food be done by the leaders of the community who are members of the community, let it be done by those charged with the care of their neighbors, by those who look out for their interest and are appointed by the community itself due to the trust and faith the community has in them.

Let the leaders of the Church, those women and men on the world stage, those who may be visiting local communities, let them concern themselves with prayer and the more ceremonial functions of worship when they are the guests of smaller churches.

Good government requires local control, even though it is balanced by direction from the top.

A general commands the overall strategy of a campaign, but the commanders in the field execute the tactics that lead to victorious engagements.

Be mindful of this, today’s reading provides a record of problem solving in the early church, but prior to the resolution of conflict it tells us the story of a divided community.

Christians have never fully gotten over these divisions, and because we are human beings we will always have them.

Consider the words of the psalmist:

The psalmist is correct; it is fitting to praise God.

It is wise to trust in the counsel of God, to have faith in God’s mercy; though do not expect God to rescue you from danger, and do not believe that God loves any one of God’s children more than another, or that God prefers you over your sister and brother.

God knows all things and understands all things; you have heard this said.

God’s knowledge is not an abstract knowledge of the particular details of individual events, God understands our person, our choices, our lives; God understands us even as we understand ourselves, only with a clarity and objectivity that we could never possess for ourselves.

Trust in God’s plan for you and for creation, but do not wait for salvation. Salvation is already yours, go out and share the good news.

Let me tell you again, Jesus was not a Lord and Christians are not priests. The only sacrifice that God ever wanted, both before and after Jesus’ time on earth, were sacrifices of love and mercy, sacrifice of compassion and justice; yes these are spiritual sacrifices, but Jesus did not “make them acceptable,” God did, and God desires that we perform these sacrifices without end.

Perform rituals of love and caring, make these your sacrifices; offer them in the real world, away from the temple and the altar, make them outside of the church.

Make your sacrifices such that they have a real and beneficial impact in the lives actual people, make them happen in the real world, not in some pageant where men and women play dress up and pretend to have magic powers, doing only what is easy and convenient.

If Jesus was the key stone, as the letter from peter says, if he was the corner stone of the Church, I tell you this, he did not lay his life down to set an example so that any person would stumble and fall. God did not bring people into being simply for the sake of casting them down.

God loves everyone, and the same fate awaits us all.

Consider the Gospel for today.

The Gospels are replete with stories that depict the ignorance of Jesus’ twelve male disciples. They were human beings and like all of us they were flawed, confused, and ignorant. Jesus goes so far as to refer to Saint Peter as “Satan,” the enemy, and on the night of Jesus’ arrest Peter denied having known him.

In the generations that followed the death of Jesus, the early Christians did not gain any more clarity, as John’s Gospel show us in the readings for the today.

Jesus is not “The Way,” though he demonstrates the way through the quality of his life. He showed us the “way of God,” which is to love, furnish hope and engender trust.

The good news is not that God has prepared a place for you, for the Jewish people that were the brothers and sisters of Jesus, or for the Christians who came later, but that God has prepared a place for everyone.

No one is left apart from God’s plan.

Following the way of Jesus does not require you to believe or know anything about him, it asks you to do all in your power to live a life of kindness and loving service to your fellow human beings. The way demands no more of you than you are able to do, knowing that you will fail, time and time again.

The good news is this: even in your failure you will be accepted and forgiven.
First Reading – Acts 6:1-7 ©

They Elected Seven Men Full of the Holy Spirit

About this time, when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenists made a complaint against the Hebrews: in the daily distribution their own widows were being overlooked. So the Twelve called a full meeting of the disciples and addressed them, ‘It would not be right for us to neglect the word of God so as to give out food; you, brothers, must select from among yourselves seven men of good reputation, filled with the Spirit and with wisdom; we will hand over this duty to them, and continue to devote ourselves to prayer and to the service of the word.’ The whole assembly approved of this proposal and elected Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, together with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus of Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.

The word of the Lord continued to spread: the number of disciples in Jerusalem was greatly increased, and a large group of priests made their submission to the faith.
Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 32(33):1-2, 4-5, 18-19 ©

May your love be upon us, O Lord, as we place all our hope in you.
Alleluia!

Ring out your joy to the Lord, O you just;
for praise is fitting for loyal hearts.
Give thanks to the Lord upon the harp,
with a ten-stringed lute sing him songs.

May your love be upon us, O Lord, as we place all our hope in you.

For the word of the Lord is faithful
and all his works to be trusted.
The Lord loves justice and right
and fills the earth with his love.

May your love be upon us, O Lord, as we place all our hope in you.

The Lord looks on those who revere him,
on those who hope in his love,
to rescue their souls from death,
to keep them alive in famine.

May your love be upon us, O Lord, as we place all our hope in you.

Alleluia!
Second Reading – 1 Peter 2:4-9 ©

Christ is the Living Stone, Chosen by God and Precious to Him

The Lord is the living stone, rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him; set yourselves close to him so that you too, the holy priesthood that offers the spiritual sacrifices which Jesus Christ has made acceptable to God, may be living stones making a spiritual house. As scripture says: See how I lay in Zion a precious cornerstone that I have chosen and the man who rests his trust on it will not be disappointed. That means that for you who are believers, it is precious; but for unbelievers, the stone rejected by the builders has proved to be the keystone, a stone to stumble over, a rock to bring men down. They stumble over it because they do not believe in the word; it was the fate in store for them.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a people set apart to sing the praises of God who called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.
Gospel Acclamation – John 14:6

Alleluia, alleluia!

Jesus said: ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.
No one can come to the Father except through me.’

Alleluia!
The Gospel According to John 14:1-12 ©

I Am the Way, the Truth and the Life

Jesus said to his disciples:

‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God still, and trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s house; if there were not, I should have told you. 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. You know the way to the place where I am going.’

Thomas said, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’
Jesus said:

‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you know me, you know my Father too. From this moment you know him and have seen him.’
Philip said, ‘Lord, let us see the Father and then we shall be satisfied.’

‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip,’ said Jesus to him ‘and you still do not know me?

‘To have seen me is to have seen the Father, so how can you say, “Let us see the Father”?

Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak as from myself: it is the Father, living in me, who is doing this work.

You must believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; believe it on the evidence of this work, if for no other reason.

I tell you most solemnly, whoever believes in me will perform the same works as I do myself, he will perform even greater works, because I am going to the Father.’
The Fifth Sunday of Easter (Year A)