As we come to this fifth Sunday of Easter, we again find ourselves with the Lord and the disciples in the evening of the Last Supper, as recorded for us by John. And there is a dynamic that’s going on here: Jesus is speaking to the disciples and knows what will occur as the evening transgresses, and knows that they will all be very disturbed in the sense of frightened and anxious. And so He opens with the words, “Do not let your hearts be troubled,” and invites them to faith.
And it’s interesting as you progress in the presentation – literally the discourse of Jesus – you find that there are different elements. In one case, Jesus is telling them that he’s going, and they want to know where are you going. They’re not familiar with that. In Jesus comes with that very beautiful line:”I am the way, and the truth, and the life,” then He goes on and talks about His identity. This is a critical part of the presentation, for Jesus basically is announcing to them the intimacy that is there between Himself and the Father.
Later on in the discourse, he will bring in the gift of the Spirit. But what I want to call to your attention is something that goes on between Philip and Jesus, for, look, speaking for the group, he says, “show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” But prior to that, Jesus said to them, “if you know me, then you will also know my father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” There is an element in John’s Gospel of time as John presents it, and one of the kind of – how could I put it – it’s one of the pieces of that element, that exposure of time is the fact that Jesus is talking in the context of that moment. But he’s also talking about what is to come, and in effect, what he is basically saying to them is that what they will be experiencing – remember, John is writing this well after probably 70 or 80 years after the actual event of the Paschal mystery – and what Jesus is saying is the Paschal mystery and the event of his passion, death and resurrection changes history for all time.
And so, he says very clearly to them that if you know Me then you will know My Father. From now on you do know him and have seen Him. In a sense, you are living in a new time moment, a new moment of time. For you are living in the eternal presence of God and that is what should be at the core at the heart of who you are and what you are about. And when you go to the Letter from Peter, you find that there is again a very beautiful presentation of the reality of the Church. But within the mystery of the reality of the Church – you’re a chosen priest, you’re chosen people, a holy priesthood – there is what you are called to do: you are called to announce what are you called to announce. You are called to announce this new reality and this new reality is most effectively pronounced through the dynamism of the church, which continues to evolve itself. We tend to think of all of these things as having a future and therefore static in the momen,t but the reality is that the future is now and there is no static – there is dynamism, and the dynamic is the ongoing evolution of the Church as it responds to the new situations in which it finds itself each day.
And that’s what that first reading from the Acts of the Apostles is about: they found themselves in a new situation the Greeks were coming, and there was a concern as to how will we incorporate service for all. And they had to make a decision, but they did not make it in isolation – then they reflected on it and they presented it to the community and they didn’t go forward with it until the community accepted it. And then they established what we have come to know in our own day as the order of Deacons. But the reality is that it was the dynamism of the community, gathered in the Lord with the gift of the Spirit, in turn, allowed them to live in a moment – the new moment being this new stage of bringing greatest sense of service to the larger community, which was evolving. When you look at the history of the church, you find that that’s at the heart, I think of the story of Gregory the Great, who was faced with a time of great famine and a time of great persecution against the Jewish community, and he had to deal with not only how do you preserve the reality of Rome at that moment in crisis, and how do you also care for those who are the most maligned. And what he did was very simple: he opened up the papal granaries and said, let us provide food for all without distinction. It was a new moment, because in his sense he was making by his actions, he was announcing a new reality, that there was no distinction, but there was care for all.
And you continued through the history of the Church, and often think of Mother Teresa and her experience – you know in a sense was doing what no one else would do: providing care for the neglected, for the dying, and in the sense those who were abandoned she creates a community, the Missionaries of Charity, and they go out into the streets and they were priceless. I had the opportunity to be engaged with them when I worked in Washington, and I’ll never forget how they would come on Sunday morning with the station wagon filled with all the kids and I remember asking them one day so where did you find all these children and they said, Oh simple Father – we take the van, the station wagon, which we don’t have registered or have a license to drive, but we take it and we go to the projects and we gather up all the children that are there and we bring them with us and they would fill the church. And you would say, there they live in the Lord and they announce the newness of life discovered in the Lord. A newness of life of being at one with God, and they had no fear of doing it. They didn’t mind – in a sense they weren’t static. They weren’t going to follow all the rules and regulations we’d make the rest of us very nervous. But they wouldn’t follow the rules and regulations: they lived the dynamism of God’s love.
In a sense, I think that’s what the scripture is reminding us today: that we are a community that is called to announce the dynamism of God’s love, and we do that in so many different ways. We do it by what you’re doing – as Father Smith has organized, you’re doing it by calling people who are isolated and alone this moment of time, this time of tragedy, this pandemic. You do it by the wonderful donations -and this week Father transferred to Catholic Charities $3,500, which are your donations and they allowed the dynamism of love to go on through Catholic Charities as we continue the feeding program over the past few weeks. We’ve provided probably close to 60,000 meals: 10,000 people, families who have been served in our pop-ups that we do every Friday.
I don’t want to be critical of government, but then you know I’m never too shy of speaking of negativity, the negativity of government, as they try to figure out what there should be happening in these situations. Now, you might have heard the governor about a week ago discovering that there was excess food up in upstate New York, that people were, in a sense the farmers and everything. Well, let me tell you that when this happened, when we first became aware of it, we and Catholic Charities reached out to the farmers in upstate New York and we have trucks that go back and forth every week bringing down to the people here in the city who are in need: fruit and vegetables, fresh fruit and fresh vegetables ,because we know that that’s critical to the nourishment of people.
It’s the dynamism of love that allows us the freedom to do what others cannot do, because they’re caught up in the bureaucracies and the structures of the moment. It’s like that first reading: the Apostles could have said, listen, we’re sorry we can’t feed those people, because our structure says this is what we’re supposed to do.
They said no, we can change structures – we can in a sense evolve them and let them be more responsive to the situations we find ourselves in every day, so that the dynamism of God’s love recreates the face of the earth.