1 Ptr 2:4-9
During the Easter Season, we hear many readings from the Acts of the Apostles. This is important because Acts tells us the earliest history of the Church. And it describes the behavior, struggles and conflicts of the earliest communities.
On Tuesday we heard, “And it was at Antioch that they were first called Christians.” Today we hear more of that early history: complaining, perceived slights, and everything else. Being part of the Christian community has never been easy. Our status as sinners reveals itself again and again, century after century. That should be no surprise as the history of the Church reflects the history of the world and our own personal histories. The Greeks complained that the Hebrews weren’t fair when distributing food. It is likely that the Hebrews had their own complaints against the Greeks that didn't get written down. But something had to be done. That something was the beginning of the order of deacon, ". . . select seven reputable men whom we shall appoint to this task." The task was to serve at table.
A close reading of scripture reminds us that what we have in the Church today--the Eucharist, a hierarchy of leaders, and human arguments and disagreements--has been with us from the beginning. Human behavior has not improved much over the past two millennia. It will not improve much over the next two millennia either.
The second reading from the First Letter of Peter is taken from a section subtitled, The Dignity of the Christian Vocation. “Like living stones let yourselves be built into a spiritual house . . .” The Church is always under construction, it is always being rebuilt and remodeled, in the same way that our lives are always changing and being renewed. Think about building or remodeling a home. Some of the work is obvious such as repainting or adding a room. Other work is overlooked. Who notices new wiring or a new hot water heater? Like us, like our homes, and like our society, the Church changes and renews itself, but unlike the other categories mentioned, the Church remains timeless. It changes in response to external factors. It remains timeless in the Eucharist. It changes through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It changes in ways that may take a long time to appreciate and understand but the Eucharist endures and will always endure.
Our spiritual home, the Church, is constructed of living stones. We are those living stones. When we transmit the faith to others, particularly our children, if and when we have them, we assure a continuing supply of building materials. The exchanges that Thomas and Philip have with Jesus are revealing. Thomas asked, “how can we know the way?” Jesus answered with a triple I AM statement.
It is important to point out that whenever Jesus begins with "I AM" He is making a statement of exclusivity. “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Jesus is the only Way . . . in a world of blind alleys.
Jesus is the only Truth . . .in a world of politics and lies.
Jesus is the only source of Life . . . in a culture Saint John Paul II called a “culture of death.”
Jesus is the cornerstone. He is the cornerstone who bears the weight of the entire edifice constructed by Him and on Him.
Philip’s request reflects the inability of the disciples to truly recognize Jesus; “Show us the Father, that will be enough for us.” Of course, that would change when the Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost. One can sense Jesus’ irritation in His answer: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”
The only access to “seeing” God is through the Son, the Son who took on human flesh, the Son who took on human concerns, the Son who lived life the same way we do. The only way to “see” the Father is to see the Son, to see the Son with the eyes of our souls. To see the Son who endured temptation but who, unlike us, did not sin. There is no direct vision of the Father. We are limited to the indirect vision of faith, which the Letter to the Hebrews defines as "the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."
All that Jesus is for us He is by reason of His obedience to the Father’s will. Therefore, the works He does, the signs He performs, the words He speaks and the revelation He brings are all the work of the Father. They are all windows through which to know the Father.
Later on in John’s Gospel we will hear a beatitude to add to those from the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are those who have not seen yet believe.” It may be the most important beatitude of all. Only as we remain the living stones of the Church, only as we allow ourselves to be held in place by Jesus, the cornerstone, only as we believe that Christ is truly and substantially present in the great gift and mystery of the Eucharist, only then can we say, as we will in a few moments:
"Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the Highest."
The week has been busy to the point of exhausting. Peter asked, last minute of course, if I would go to Maribor with him on Monday at 5:30 PM for a student concert. And would I take my camera? Well of course I would take my camera. It was a very good concert in the Jesuit church just down the street from Magis, the residential college. Got back at midnight. As I am giving a retreat to a group of physicians next week (Friday to Sunday) I've been working on it. Some of the handouts and prayers will be in both Slovenian and English. Other parts will be in English. The retreat is requiring quite a bit of computer time.
The photos below are one of a photographer's favorite things. Flowers. They can be a challenge but the results are usually pretty good. Raindrops on roses? A total cliche that few can resist.
+Fr. Jack, SJ, MD