Pastoral Reflections

5th Sunday of Easter – 2017

Most of us are typically emotionally overwhelmed, depressed, sad and anxious at the loss of a close loved one. We often wonder, how will we go on in the absence of that person. We may wonder if we will ever be able to adequately fill the void created by the departure of our loved one. However, as time passes, we begin to move forward as best as we can. Fears, worries, and anxieties eventually give way to plans, resolution, direction and a sense of predictability. Our sleep and our appetite become regulated once again.

Many times, God provides us with meaningful distractions to help us in our attempts to reintegrate with life. We may choose to renew old acquaintances or perhaps channel our time and concerns toward others who have been left behind along with us. We adapt and survive as best as we can. Sometimes, God blesses us with new challenges and new goals. Gradually, life begins to feel well again.

As human beings, we are generally prone to fear, anxiety and worry, so it is no wonder that the Bible speaks of these persistently and advises us not to give into these reactions. Concern about difficulties or challenges is a healthy thing, worry is not, as it only zaps our energy and does not improve our circumstances either in the short run or the long haul.

In his reflections with his disciples, Jesus admonishes them not to worry or be anxious over what they will eat or wear, as God will provide that. After all, he does this for the birds of the air and the lilies in the field, so why wouldn’t he do it for us? At one point, Jesus poses the question, who among you can increase your physical stature by one inch through worrying? Worrying is a wasteful activity under any circumstance.

Often times, worry is intensified because our faith is weak; instead of looking to God for solutions, we become preoccupied with how we can solve the problem we are facing. If we prayed more I’m sure we would see God sending us help in one form or another.

In the Gospel today, we heard Jesus preparing his disciples for the time when he would no longer be with them physically. They obviously were worried about this prospect, so He was moved to say to them, ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled’ – don’t worry, all will be okay. He continued with ‘You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be’. (John 14:1-3)

In the Gospel, Philip asks Jesus to be able to see the Father and Jesus responded, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? To have seen me is to have seen the Father.” (John 14:9) If Jesus were to ask that question of us I think most of us would answer that we do know something of him but we likely don’t know him very well. That is why we worry. If we knew Jesus better, we would not focus on the problems and difficulties but focus on Jesus instead. I can hear Jesus saying, “Have I been with you all this time and you still do not know me?” “Have I been with you all this time in the Mass and sacraments and the Word of God in the Bible and you still do not know me?” “Have I been with you all this time in the faith of your community and when you pray to me and you still do not know me?” “Have I been with you all this time and when you look back over your life you can see that I sent you help when you needed it and you still do not know me?”

If we had more of Jesus in our lives we would have less fear, worries and anxieties. Oh, we would still have problems. God never promised that we would not have problems. Jesus himself faced a big problem, he was sentenced to death as a common criminal. But Jesus rose on the third day and Jesus will help us rise above our difficulties also because as the second reading states, Jesus is the “living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God” (1 Pet 2:4) If we try to live without Jesus, life will not go nearly as well for us as when we have Jesus at the center of our lives. We can overcome problems better with Jesus in our lives than without Jesus. If we turn our backs on Jesus how can we expect to succeed? Let us focus on Jesus and not on the problems. Again as our second reading states, “Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion, a cornerstone, chosen and precious, and whoever believes in it shall not be put to shame.” (1 Pet 2:6)

In our Gospel today Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.” (John 14:1) When we have problems let us turn to Jesus who is always waiting for us, to provide what we need. It is surely human to become absorbed with whatever difficulty we are facing. As Christians, it should natural for us to turn to Jesus in any difficulty. If we struggle with this, perhaps it may say something about the extent to which Jesus is truly the cornerstone of our living.

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