“God is love” (1 John 4:16) and no person you meet could possibly be more loving than the Source of love itself.
– Richard Rohr
The readings for the fifth Sunday of Easter cycle A can be found here.
The scripture scholar will tell you that the Gospel was written around 95 CE and during that time the Johannine community was defining their identity. Helping to shape that identity were Jews from the Synagogue who were persecuting the community. Also, there was competing groups like the followers of John the Baptist, and other Christian communities with different christological beliefs.
John Shelby Spong explains to us that in this community “sixty-five to seventy years had now passed and Jesus had not reappeared. The persecution had not ended. The reign of evil had not been broken. So John changed the message and transformed the story of Jesus.” Over the next two Sundays the Gospel verses represent a part of the farewell discourses where Jesus explains that even though He is leaving He will always be with us.
The Spirit guides [the people of God] in truth and leads [the people of God] to salvation. As part of his mysterious love for humanity, God furnishes the totality of the faithful with an instinct of faith – sensus fidei – which helps them to discern what is truly of God. The presence of the Spirit gives Christians a certain connaturality with divine realities, and a wisdom which enables them to grasp those realities intuitively, even when they lack the wherewithal to give them precise expression.
– Pope Francis I (APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION EVANGELII GAUDIUM)
I am raising three beautiful daughters, and although they are mostly grown as a parent I will never stop raising them. When they were younger each in turn, around the age of seven, would get into the car and ask “where are we going?” My wife and I never consulted the children when it was time to go to the store or to run some errand but they always wanted to know where we were going, as if it put their fears to rest. We would say “we are going to the grocery store” and that would be enough, usually. If we had to stop at the bank before the grocery store there would be hue and cry from the back if we didn’t layout the entire itinerary beforehand. Thank goodness those days are over.
As my daughters grew in maturity this need to know where we were going changed. John explains, through Jesus, that our spiritual growth and our understanding of God should mature also.
Jesus tried to reassure the disciples that they did not need need to worry and right away Thomas asked Jesus where he was going; “how can we know the way?” Today we might say “give me the address and I will put it into my GPS.” A small child may ask “where does Jesus live?” And, perhaps a small child today may have a GPS where they already saved the North Pole as a favorite location. Next location on the list might be heaven. Jesus didn’t print out a map for Thomas but explained that “if you know me, you will know.” Stop looking around at what is outside you and begin looking inside. Stop expecting to find the answers in an external place and let Jesus make a home inside you.
Whenever you have a return to solitude and silence, you know that there’s been a rediscovery of the contemplative mind. I think we should close down every pastoral program in a diocese and just teach our people how to pray. It’s the built-in therapy to let go of your addiction to yourself and to your repetitive obsessive thoughts, which just screws up just about everything.
Without the contemplative mind, which at this point in history we have to be taught, you simply don’t have the wherewithal to deal with great spiritual truths.
– Richard Rohr
Philip, like Thomas, asks another question related to external realities; “show us the Father.” He wanted to see the physical proof of God. Maybe if they had cellular phones back then Jesus could have run through a photo gallery and that would be enough for Philip. We are not much different today. We flock to movies and buy books claiming to show that heaven is a real place. We assume somebody somewhere has the inside track and can show us the proof we need. It was the same way in the Johannine community. Once again Jesus directs the focus away from external evidence to internal evidence; “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” Stop looking for proof from the world around you and begin to mature your sensus fidei.
The Church, therefore, does not accomplish this discernment only through the Pastors, who teach in the name and with the power of Christ but also through the laity: Christ “made them His witnesses and gave them understanding of the faith and the grace of speech (cf. Acts 2:17-18; Rv. 19:10), so that the power of the Gospel might shine forth in their daily social and family life.”
– Saint Pope John Paul II (APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION FAMILIARIS CONSORTIO)
If you take one thing away from this homily it should be to to become closer to Jesus through reducing our reliance upon external proof and growing a more mature spirituality. Don’t rely on your pastor to discern the message of Jesus for you.
I am going to make some Catholics angry with my next statement. Keep in mind that your reaction will be an indicator of your understanding of today’s Gospel. Going to Mass just to receive the Eucharist is an example of external proof that Philip was asking for. John’s Gospel does not include the Last Supper. I am not suggesting you abstain from receiving Eucharist, but to fully understand the Gospel message you need to know why you are receiving Eucharist. If you feel that Eucharist is the ultimate experience of Jesus perhaps you don’t know Him. If you rely solely on receiving the Eucharist to experience Jesus you will be forever asking “how will we know the way” and “show us the Father.”
I will leave you today with a quote from Fr. Richard Rohr. Take the Gospel to heart.
Without honest self-knowledge religion ends up, I’m going to say it, being more a part of the problem than the solution. I mean, we’ve seen it now for centuries, that people who call themselves Christian can be utterly racist, utterly sexist, utterly greedy, no questions asked.
Religion isn’t bad, but until religion becomes actual spiritual experience, it is just religion.
I think of the Catholic parents who’ve demanded that their kids go to Mass every Sunday, but then they’re sitting there themselves bored to death and hate every minute of it and walk out early and, I mean, the kids knows by [age] three, “This is not a good thing to go to Mass,” you know?
– Richard Rohr