May 14, 2017 — Fifth Sunday of Easter
In today’s Gospel Reading, St. Thomas the Apostle questions Jesus and asks, “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’.” We may recall that in last week’s Gospel Jesus explained that He was the Gatekeeper, the Good Shepherd. Our readings on this Fifth Sunday point again to the Lord as our guide in life. It is worth noting that the early Church was called merely “The Way.”
The center of our lives should be Christ. Our work for Jesus and our love for others, no matter what our calling in life may be, should flow from this. When asked why she did what she did, St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) responded simply, “I do it for Jesus.”
Our First Reading continues what we have been hearing about the early Church throughout this Easter season. The developments reported today, however, are still significant to the Church today. What is reported is the appointment of Deacons as an order within the Church. The Church was growing on a daily basis and as the numbers expanded it became increasingly difficult for the Apostles to serve all the needs of the people. They declared in response, “Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task.”
They did not just appoint them though; they ordained them: “They presented these men to the apostles who prayed and laid hands on them.” This is still part of the way priests and deacons are ordained today. Part of that early decision was inspired by the fact that the Apostles, the first priests, felt they needed to concentrate on their central calling, which was prayer and the ministry of the Word. Deacons can perform some duties the normal lay person cannot because they are ordained. Nevertheless, it is through stewardship that more and more lay people are relied upon to serve and to be ministers within the Church as well. That is why it is important for each member to be involved and to be active in the Church.
The Second Reading is also a continuation of what we have been hearing as it is drawn from the First Letter of St. Peter. If Jesus is indeed “the way” as explained in the Gospel today, then He needs to fulfill His role as the Cornerstone of the Church, and we need to recognize and acknowledge that. In a building and in its foundation the cornerstone is the first stone placed, and everything after that is based upon it. Thus, as St. Peter indicates in his letter, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”
St. Peter goes a step farther though when he points out that each of us is a “living stone” and each of us becomes part of the overall structure of the Church. “Let yourselves be built into a spiritual house.” We often make reference to building the Kingdom of God. That is what we are to do as Church and as a parish. But we need everyone to be a part of that building. With Jesus as our cornerstone we can build a magnificent spiritual house indeed.
In the Gospel Jesus makes reference to His Father’s House, and prompts us to never forget that this is part of His sacrifice for us and His promise to us — that we have a place in Heaven. Our whole faith life is dependent upon this belief, and we are to especially consider this from Lent through Easter and into this Easter season.
Jesus again repeats to His followers that “…whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these…” Jesus has expectations of us as Catholics and Christians. He expects us to continue His work. He points out that He is leaving, but that we need to do even more. A few weeks ago Peter converted more people with one sermon than Jesus did in His lifetime. We are called to discipleship. We are called to be His followers. The Lord is not asking us to be passive worshippers and observers, but to be active participants in the life of the Church and in the world as Christians. Our lives need to be more than being at Mass once on the weekend. Jesus wants a working Church and working participants in that Church. We are to be “living stones.”