HOMILY FOR THE FIFTH (5TH) SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR A (3)
HOMILY THEME: ABSOLUTELY JESUS.
By: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
A lawyer placed this sign on his door: “Where there is a will, there is a way; where there is a way, there is law; where there is law, there is a rule; where there is a rule, there is a loophole; where there is a loophole, there is a lawyer. Welcome!”
Do we know what the purpose of our life is? What are we here for? Archbishop Fulton Sheen shared this story. One time he was going to give a talk in a parish. He could not find the way to the church. He saw a boy on the road and asked for directions. Seeing him in his episcopal attire, the boy was curious, “Sir, you are not superman, are you?” The bishop smiled and explained, “No, I am a priest.” “What does a priest do?” the boy asked. “Well, I tell people how to go to heaven.” The boy did not believe him. “Nah! You cannot even find the church. How can you help people find heaven?”
Jesus knew exactly the purpose of his coming into this world. The meaning of the name Jesus expresses it: God saves. He has come to save us. In the Gospel this Sunday, he solemnly declared, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” That is his mission statement, and it is absolute. Take note of the words he used. He did not say, “I am a Way, a form of Truth, and a way of Life”. A man gave a beautiful ring to his wife on their wedding anniversary: “To the Number One in my life!” The wife protested, “I don’t like being Number One. That means there could be Number Two or Number Three. I want to be the Only One in your life.” When Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”, he is saying that he is the ultimate Absolute in this world – he is the Only One.
This is an outright rejection of what Pope Benedict XVI called “the dictatorship of relativism.” Nowadays, the Cafeteria Catholics are growing in number. They are the pick-and- choose Catholics: “I’ll believe in the miracles of Jesus but not the Eucharist.” “I’ll rejoice in the resurrection, but I will not accept the cross.” “I’ll receive the sacraments, except Confession.” But for Jesus, this is supreme absurdity. It is either we fully accept him and his teachings or reject him altogether. It is either we are with him or against him. There are no multiple choices; there are no compromises. He is The Way, The Truth and The Life. There is no one else. The Gospel this Sunday poses two main challenges for us. First, we have to make a choice between Jesus and the world. There are many Catholics who have become materialistic and worldly, who are in constant pursuit of their selfish ambitions for power and wealth. If we accept Jesus as the Way, we have to reject the ways of the world.
There are Catholics who enjoy sowing intrigues and lies, and who embrace superstitious beliefs, horoscopes, feng shui and other pagan practices. If we accept Jesus as the Truth, we cannot anymore entertain such erroneous teachings and false beliefs. And we have to stop spreading lies and gossips.
The hot controversy in the Philippines in the recent past was about the Reproductive Health Bill Law. It seeks to legalize and finance with tax money the distribution of contraceptives and sex education in schools, which is widely believed to pave the way towards the legalization of abortion. Naturally, and as a matter of Church doctrine and Christian principle, the Catholic Bishops strongly opposed it. But the survey results showed that 90% of Filipino Catholics were in favor of this legislation. A group composed of 160 faculty members of Ateneo de Manila University executed a position letter openly supporting the RH Bill (August 13, 2012). A congresswoman openly commented, “I am a Catholic congresswoman; but I am not a congresswoman of the Catholic Church!” (Phil. Daily Inquirer, Aug. 15, 2012). They are Catholics but they ignore the teachings of the Church and openly oppose the Bishops on this vital moral issue. They simply do not know what it means to be Catholic. If we accept Jesus as the Life, we have to reject the culture of death and oppose all anti life behavior and mentality. The second challenge is for us to realize that losing Jesus should never be an option. Jesus is everything for us. To lose him is to lose everything. People are terrified at the thought of losing all their money, or their health or their loved one. But are we afraid of losing Jesus? We must remember that when we transgress God’s commandments, when we persist living in grave sin, and when we obstinately hold on to an erroneous belief and immoral behavior, we lose Jesus. And we ought to tremble in fear of the dire consequences of losing him. Jesus is the way. In last Sunday’s Gospel, he said, “I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.” (Jn 10:9). This Sunday, he has a similar message: “No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn 14:6). When we lose Jesus, we lose our only way to salvation. We are led astray, and that means eternal damnation. Jesus is the Truth. He declared, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (Jn 8:12). When we lose Jesus, we lose the light of truth. We live in darkness and error, and so we make fatal blunders and wrong decisions. Jesus is the Life: “I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly” (Jn 10:10). He added, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned.” (Jn 15:5-6). When we lose Jesus, we lose eternal life and suffer the eternal fires of Hell. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called ‘hell’” (1033). As we come together in this Eucharistic celebration, once again we acknowledge this most profound and absolute truth. We are here because we know that Jesus, our Lord and God, is the only Absolute in our life, and indeed, of this entire world. Thomas á Kempis wrote, “Without the Way, there is no going. Without the Truth, there is no knowing. Without the Life, there is no living.”
Life in this world is never easy. Though saddled with the troubles, fears, confusion and sorrows of life, let us take courage and strength from the loving invitation of Jesus: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me” (Jn 14:1). He is our Way, our Truth and our Life. Through him and with him, we will come to the Father and enjoy everlasting life and glory in His eternal Kingdom.
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, Palmera Springs 3 Susano Road, Camarin, Novaliches, Caloocan City 14