The Fifth Sunday of Easter [A]
Acts 6:1-7 + 1 Pt 2:4-9 + Jn 14:1-12
May 14, 2017
“…whoever believes in me will do the works I do….”
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” When Jesus speaks these words at the Last Supper, two disciples speak out. Maybe you can relate to each of them in turn.
The first is the Apostle Thomas, often called “Doubting Thomas”. This not-too-positive name is usually connected to Thomas doubting his fellow apostles when they tell him that they’ve seen the Risen Lord (John 20:24-25).
But today, we hear Thomas express doubt, not about his fellow apostles, but about his Lord. He does this in two ways. First, he doubts Jesus when he complains that “we do not know where you are going”. He’s expressing doubt about Jesus as a leader.
Second, he expresses doubt about the means by which to reach the goal. “How can we know the way?” You have to admit that this objection bears a certain logic: if you do not know where you’re headed, how can you know how to get there? If you’ve read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, you remember the nonsensical exchange between Alice and the Cheshire Cat. Alice asks the Cat, “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat. “I don’t much care where—” said Alice. “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat. [Alice added as an explanation:] “—so long as I get somewhere”. “Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”
Many people in our culture feel like a hamster on a wheel. Earthly goals after many decades don’t seem to produce the accomplishment they had hoped for, and the goal of Heaven on earth never seems to materialize. So, the doubter asks, what is the connection between earth and Heaven? As far as reaching the goal of Heaven, is our time on earth just simple waiting, hoping we don’t commit the mortal sin that will close the doors of Heaven against us? This is a very negative view of the spiritual life: that following Jesus is defined by what we don’t do.
We need to put ourselves in the shoes of the apostle Philip. Philip makes a simple request: “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” But if Philip thought that he was being humble in asking this, Jesus has other ideas. “Have I been with you for so long… and you still do not know me, Philip? … How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?” You can almost imagine Philip wide-eyed at Jesus’ response, thinking that he’d asked for very little.
Jesus expands on what He means by explaining that His own words and works are not, in fact, done on His own. The Father and the Son are one. They are one to such perfection that their words and works are one. This is a profound point, but it’s not Jesus’ final point—or even His strongest point—in today’s Gospel passage.
“Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.” The Easter Season is not just about Jesus rising from the dead. The Easter Season is also about Jesus rising to the Right Hand of the Father. The sacred event of Jesus’ Ascension is what makes it possible for those ‘greater works’ to be worked by Jesus’ followers. Whether it’s the work of one’s vocation to marriage or religious life, or whether it’s dedication in old age to an intense life of prayer and the acceptance of suffering, each and every Christian finds strength for the journey in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the only Way that leads to the embrace of God the Father.