Msgr. Joseph Prior

(See the readings for the Fifth Sunday of Easter, May 10)

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me,” Jesus says to his disciples. The words come to us again and again these days. They are worth hearing and repeating. “Do no let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.”

Jesus is always with us, especially in times when we need him most. Sometimes we might not recognize him with us. Perhaps this is akin to Cleopas and his friend when they encountered Jesus on the road to Emmaus. This was the gospel account from Mass a few weeks ago.

They were leaving Jerusalem full of sorrow, sadness and distress at the death of the Lord. Even though they had heard word of his resurrection they were not sure. Jesus came to them and it was only after time with him and finally in the breaking of the bread that their eyes were opened to recognize him. Yet he was there with them all the time. His effect was clearly present as they recalled later: “Were not our hearts burning within us on the road as he explained the Scriptures to us?”

The presence of Jesus in the lives of the faithful is continuous. He is ever present. And so his words, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me,” provide us an invitation to see our lives through the lens of faith and to have our hearts settled and at peace.

The challenges we face these days are wide and varied. For some, like those in the medical fields and working in nursing homes, it brings exhaustion as they tend to the sick and dying. For some, like those out of work and staying at home, it may bring frustration. For some, like students preparing to graduate from grade school, high school and college it may bring sadness at what is supposed to be a grand celebration. For some, it may bring fear of illness or death. The list goes on and on but the words of Jesus remain the same: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.”

Jesus speaks to his disciples about his imminent departure. He will be leaving this earth through a painful and tortuous death. Their faith will be shaken to the core. He promises a home for them with him in the Father’s house. In that house they will dwell in peace and serenity for they will be with him who gives peace and serenity.

When Thomas asks him the way, Jesus responds with the powerful words: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Hence his earlier invitation to be at peace is further emphasized. Jesus is the one who can give peace because he is one with the Father. It is his mission to offer, give and establish this peace.

The reference to the “father’s house,” along with Jesus’ departure, point to his death and resurrection. He leaves this world through his death but comes back again through his resurrection. The invitation he offers is one he can offer, in fact the only one who can offer it, because he is the only one who has risen from the dead. Hence our confidence in him lies in his Resurrection. 

The words also point to our own death, which is for most people the greatest fear to overcome. And so he says: “I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.”

Jesus’ invitation to life continues to be given today through the church. We have been following the work of the Spirit in the early church in the first readings at Mass from the Acts of the Apostles since Easter Sunday. The proclamation of his death and resurrection and the subsequent joy they bring have brought many to hear those words, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God, have faith also in me,” and to find through them he who spoke them.

This Sunday’s passage from Acts points to the great growth in the church. Numerous people are responding to the invitation and acclaim Jesus as Lord. So much so that the Twelve need help in caring for the growing communion. So the Spirit directs them to choose seven men “filled with the Spirit and wisdom” who become the first deacons.

The passage also provides a reminder that Jesus does not come to us alone. He comes that we may be united in love, in a communion of faith both here on earth and in heaven to come. While on earth, he offers us peace so that our hearts can be opened to love – to love one another as he has loved us.

How many times have we seen this these past couple months? So many faithful are reaching out in whatever way they can to help others in the communion of faith which is the church. Right from the beginning of the stay-at-home restrictions, calls and emails were coming in from all aspects of the parish offering help and support for those in need.

Food drives are taking place, outreach to the homebound via phone calls and video chats, along with donations for parishes and other charitable organizations are only a few of the many ways people respond to the Lord of Life with hearts opened to love.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God, have faith also in me.” The words are worth repeating over and over. As the days and weeks of the stay-at-home orders and restrictions of gathering in person continue, we will probably begin to grow weary, tired, anxious and impatient.

At these times we might make those words of Jesus part of our daily prayer, a mantra to use during the day especially when we get restless. The words can settle our hearts and lift our spirits: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God, have faith also in me.”

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Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish, Penndel, and a former professor of Sacred Scripture and rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.