HOMILY FOR THE FIFTH (5th) SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR A (2)
HOMILY THEME: THE WAY, THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE
By: Fr. Johnbosco Obika
As I was preparing for this fifth Sunday of Easter, the first thing that came to my mind was an experience I had as a child that still linger in my memory. I remembered when we trekked for mass in an out station on a distant location. One Sunday after the mass I disappeared in the crowd. My parents and my older siblings searched for me everywhere around the church without success. So, they left presuming I went home with one of our neighbours. 20 minutes later I found myself in one corner of the church without anybody but the pillars, pews and carvings of the 14 Stations of the Cross. I had been sleeping in a secluded corner. I came outside seeing nobody. I was hungry and weak. I started going home, there were several roads, each road looked alike and at the same time different. I did not know which way to follow. Suddenly a man came by and promised to take me home. I refused until he told me he knew my parents and called their names. That convinced me and I followed him. He did not take me home directly. Since his house was close he took me to his house and I had lunch with his children before he proceeded to our house and handed me over to my parents. This good Samaritan in my story who led the way for me, told me the truth that he knew my parents and gave me food bears much the image of Jesus Christ who does not only show us the way to the father but who is the way himself.
Today’s gospel is the beginning of the valedictory speeches of Jesus to his disciples. As his departure was drawing near, knowing the hearts of his apostles will be troubled by his departure, he gave them a new commandment to trust in him, an assurance of God’s many mansions, a promise to return and take them with him for a greater reason of living with him eternally in heaven. But there was panic and uncertainty in the apostolic enclave. The apostles were not just getting the gist. They were having a feeling of great loss and imagined how life without Jesus could be. They were thinking of Jesus as that political and economic messiah that came to establish an earthly kingdom who will settle his apostles with worldly positions and power. They were very skeptical about Jesus’ statements. Thomas could not hold it and he asked: “Lord, we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way, the truth and the life…” He was going to God and so the way to God, the truth of God and the life which God gives. Therefore to know Jesus is to know God, to know the way, to know the truth and to have the life.
When we abandon the way, do not focus on the truth and pay less attention to the word of God which is life in itself, the result will be catastrophic as we see in the first reading of today. There was crisis in the community of believers. The Hellenistic Jews (Greek speaking Jews or Jews in Diaspora) complained bitterly about their widows who were disfavoured in the distribution of foods. Note here that the scuffle was not about the word of God but about food. So their attention shifted from the primary mission. A lot of things started creeping in like discrimination and nepotism. When we pay less attention to the word of God which is the way, many things will creep into our lives to destroy our faith. This very crisis opened the eyes of the apostles to see how they are moving away from the “way”. Recall that the early Christians were known as “the way”. This gave rise to the seven deacons whose function was to ensure equity in the distribution of food in order to allow the apostles to focus on the word of God and ministering to the spiritual needs of the people.
It is important to check on these three points that the gospel shares with us today:
THE WAY: Which way are you traveling with? The world is full of many roads that lead to nowhere good. These roads are wide and enticing but deadly. Jesus warns us, “Enter the narrow gate. For the gate is wide that the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13-14). In this Sunday we learn that when we abandon the way of Jesus and follow other ways all we will meet is crisis. The road of materialism leads to selfishness and greed. The road of discrimination leads to prejudice, injustice and war.
THE TRUTH: Are you on the side of truth? Do your actions reflect truth? Are you on the same mission with Jesus who says, “I was born for this, and I have come into the world for this: to testify to the truth” (John 18:37). Jesus came to deliver us from ignorance and illusions. Things are not as they appear. Appearance is not the same with reality. It can be very deceptive. A lot of ideas, teachings and lifestyles in the world today are enticing but they are deadly. But truth is one and eternal. It does not change but it changes those who accept it.
LIFE: Do we really live or merely exist? Does our existence reflect the beauty of meaningful living? Jesus is the life; the living bread (John 6:51); the living water (John 4:14). If we live like him we shall have life in us in abundant here and hereafter.