Sunday, May 18, 2014

Do not let your hearts be troubled

HOMILY FOR THE 5th SUNDAY OF EASTER, May 18, 2014:
Five-year old Johnny was in the kitchen when his mother asked him to go to the basement and get a can of tomato sauce. This made Johnny very nervous. “It’s dark in there and I’m scared,” he replied. His mother calmly said to him, “Don’t worry. It’s all right, Johnny. Jesus will be there with you.” And so, Johnny walked hesitantly to the door and opened it slowly. Then, peeping into the darkness he yelled, “Jesus, if you’re in there, would you please hand me a can of tomato sauce?”

We heard in our Gospel, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” These may be among the most comforting words that we hear in all of the Gospels. After all, we can often feel like Johnny – a little bit afraid of being alone without Jesus. This is the anxiety that the disciples experience in our Gospel as the time draws near for Jesus to leave them. They are afraid to face the world alone. With Jesus, they felt they could do all things. Without Him, they’re afraid to be alone and abandoned. But today, we hear Jesus offer these comforting words to convince the disciples that there is no need to be afraid, even when He is not there with them.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.” Why can we be confident in this statement of Jesus? How can we simply put aside our fears? Jesus tells us – the answer is faith. “You have faith in God, have faith also in me.” Or in other words, everything else I told you and showed you; all that you have experienced – let that lead you to trust. Remember the water-to-wine; remember the multiplication of the loaves, not just for a few, but for thousands-upon-thousands; remember the blind man and the crippled man and the countless others who were healed; remember Lazarus who was dead and came back to life – remember Me, Jesus, I was dead and now live and walk among you. “You have faith in God, have faith also in me.” Trust. Have faith. And, if you believe in Me; then believe also in one another because I am there with you – in you – too.

It might be easier to believe in God – especially a God of miracles. But, the challenge is to believe in the ordinary, flesh-and-blood human beings who are all around us. The challenge is to believe that God didn’t come to merely live among us for 33 brief years more than 2,000 years ago, never to be heard from again. He came to be present forever. Present in prayer – so powerfully through Word and Sacrament; but present also in you and in me.

We can often be filled with fear. When we can’t get a job, or can’t pay the bills, we can feel afraid. When our relationships are fractured and even broken, we can feel alone. When we’ve hurt someone else or been hurt by others, we can feel abandoned and even rejected. There are so many difficult and challenging moments in our lives today that can fill us with anxiety and make us feel alone and afraid.

But, the disciples remind us of something so simple today: they see God in Jesus. As long as He is around, they are not afraid. But, at first, they do not appear see God in each other. They set Jesus apart. They put Him on a different level from themselves. But, Jesus reminds them that just as God works through Him, God will work through them. He says, “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.”

Today, we can feel like Philip and our prayer is, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Show us that God is with us. Show us that God is alive and actively involved in events in our lives today. Show us that we are not alone. To this Jesus says to us, too, “How can you say, 'Show us the Father?'” when He is so constantly present all around us, if we open our eyes to see Him; if we open our hearts and lives to be His presence. We can believe in miracles because we see them. And the challenge for each of us is to become the miracle that others might see; to become the miraculous presence of God in someone’s life today.

Today, it might be Jesus who says to us, “You, show Me the Father and I will be satisfied.” And so, we gather today, as we do each week, to be built up – as the disciples were so long ago – on the presence of God in our midst. He fills us with His grace through His Word proclaimed and through the miraculous presence of His Son in the Blessed Sacrament. And then, He asks each and every one of us to leave this church and become that Presence of God to the world around us. We are not alone. God is right here with us – in our joys, in our pains, in our defeats and in our triumphs – and He is calling each of us to remind the world around us that there is nothing to fear because God’s loving presence is in us for all the world to see. Will you be the presence of God to the world today?

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God, have faith also in me.”

May the Lord give you peace.