FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER PASTOR NOTES
In today’s gospel, Jesus reinforces what He said last week when He declared Himself the sheep gate. “I am the way and the truth and the life…No one can come to the Father except through me.” Once again Jesus is effectively declaring that He, Himself is the narrow way that leads to eternal life. By adding that “no one comes to the Father except through me” Jesus is effectively telling us that it is impossible to have a right relationship with God except through Christ who is not only the only way to the Father but also Truth itself and Life itself. And what is more, Jesus is such because He is one with the Father. Therefore, Jesus is the happiness we long for. Jesus is the God whom we seek.
The context of this reading though is also important. It takes place at the Last Supper. Judas has just left to betray Jesus. The remaining disciples are upset by the way things are going. Only John and we can presume Peter know that Judas is the betrayer. The rest are still puzzled that Jesus would say that one of them would betray Him. In short, their hearts were troubled and they may have taken Jesus’ remarks as almost patronizing them. But, Jesus immediately made them a promise. Even though He would be leaving them, it was going to be for their advantage. All they had to do was keep faith.
He was going away to prepare a place for them in His Father’s house. And in that house, He tells them, there are many dwelling places. Although, some translations call these dwelling places “mansions” it is unlikely that Jesus means to imply that He is referring to physical buildings. He is speaking of heaven and is telling the Apostles and us that there is plenty of room there. All we have to do is live out our faith in Jesus as the way, the truth, and the life, and He will take us there. He will grant us that gift of eternal life.
In acknowledging Jesus as the only way to the Father and keeping His commandments in faith, we are also acknowledging that salvation is God’s free gift. There is nothing we can do to earn it. Further, before God, we will all be treated as equal whether we began working in the Vineyard early in the morning or only at the end of the day. As Jesus tells us in the parable about the workers in the vineyard, God’s generosity knows no bounds.
Of course we know only too well that in this life we become obsessed with self-importance. We hear how even in that ideal first Christian community in Jerusalem they thought that the widows who spoke Hebrew were treated better that those who spoke Greek. In other words, those who came from outside the Holy Land claimed that they were discriminated against in favor of those who were native even though at this point, they were all Jews who had accepted Christ. Things only got worse when gentiles began converting.
Yet, we see even here how Christ provided for His Church through the gift of the Holy Spirit. We hear in that first reading how the Spirit guided Peter and the other Apostles to institute the Order of Deacons so that the needs of all would be attended to. Later in Acts, we hear of how the Spirit would guide the Apostles at the Council of Jerusalem into establishing the procedures that would allow the Gentiles to become part of the Church without first having to become practicing Jews.
As Saint Peter tells us, if we truly accept Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life we let ourselves be built into a spiritual household so that we can become that holy, priestly people who can offer that acceptable sacrifice to God through Christ. Through baptism, we become “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of [God’s] own” called out of darkness and into the wonderful light of Him who alone calls us to walk that path that leads though Him, and Him alone to those dwelling places prepared for us from the foundation of the world.