Easter 5th Sunday A: Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life

From Fr. Jude Botelho

In the first reading we are reminded that the early church was not without its share of domestic problems like the ones we have in our own times. The Hellenistic group complained that their poor widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. Another problem was that some people were so overworked that they were neglecting other more important duties. The solution was the appointment of deacons who would be responsible for the food distribution task. The way the early Church resolved the problem showed the Church as an organization with an atmosphere of love. What is important is that problems have to be faced openly by discussion and adjustment done in a spirit of prayerful discernment always motivated by Christian values.
We’re on our way
Gandhi’s ‘Dandi March’ initiated on March 12, 1930, is a landmark in India’s freedom struggle. Gandhi walked with 78 satyagrahis for 23 days from Sabarmati Ashram to the coastal town of Dandi about 380 kms way in defiance of the salt tax imposed by the British. In his ‘My Experiment with Truth’ Gandhi writes that he instructed people “to make salt along the seashore wherever it was most convenient and comfortable.” The 75th anniversary of the event was commemorated in 2005 with Indian and foreign yatris retracting this historic ‘way’. Indeed, great Indian leaders have imprinted wondrous ‘ways’ on the sands of time. –“I am the Way, the Truth, the Life” asserts Jesus. Jesus’ way is an inclusive path of love, service and self-sacrifice animated by ‘right thinking’, and ‘right action’(Life).
Francis Gonsalves in ‘Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds’

The Gospel contains the farewell discourse of Jesus and is tinged with sadness as well as advice. "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God and trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father's house and I am going to prepare a place for you.. You know the way to the place where I am going." Jesus is going but he does not want to leave his disciples, he desires to take them with him, hence he reminds his disciples: "You know the way to the Father.” The "way" is obedience to the teachings Jesus gave and the manner in which he lived his life. The earlier name the Christian community gave itself was "Followers of The Way"; it was not until later, at Antioch, that they were called Christians. But the apostles tended to forget the way. In reply to Thomas' question "How can we know the way?" Jesus does not give a handbook that will answer all their questions, nor does he hand them a book detailing every law. There are no road maps into the future. He does not say "I have a way," nor "I will show you the way." He simply points to himself and declares who he is as a memorable summary of the good news: "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through me." He alone is the gateway to God, the access to the Father. Jesus is the face of God, the heart of God, the word of God. Philip still does not get it. He asks Jesus to "show us the Father" hoping for some extraordinary vision and Jesus replies that whoever has seen him has seen the Father. Jesus stuns them all by claiming that in seeing Him they have seen the heavenly Father.  The one mission of Jesus was to reveal the Father. He alone reveals the Father in the 'way' he lives, in the 'truth' of his words and in his 'life'. He reveals the Father in the 'ordinary' things of life, in 'routine' events and 'small' people. The Gospel passage end with Jesus' renewed call to a deepened faith in Him if not in his words then in his works. He promises that those who believe in him will do the same works that he has done and even more. We know the works of God are to give life and to restore meaning in life or enrich life's meaning. This is our challenge today, to engage in life-giving works rather than death-dealing ones.

Be the fuse!On November 26, 1965, Time magazine had a story that can give us all food for thought. An electrical fuse about the size of a bread box failed, resulting in 80,000 square miles along the US-Canadian border being plunged in darkness. All the electrical power for that entire region passed through that single fuse. Without that fuse no power could reach any point in that vast region. Like that fuse box each of us has a tremendous potential for good or evil, which can affect a multitude. Jesus promises us believers all his power and even more. All we have to do is walk the way he walked and be Jesus to a waiting world today!

Jesus the Way!All of us have some experience of getting lost and having to ask for directions. We have approached a stranger and asked, “How do I get to such and such a place?” There are three common responses. The person says: “Sorry. I can’t help you. I am a stranger around here.” Needless to say, that’s no help to us. Or the person proceeds to give us a set of complicated directions that leaves us totally confused. That’s not much help either. Or we might be lucky enough to meet a kind person who says, “I know where it is. But it’s a bit complicated. I’ll tell you what. Just follow me and I’ll take you there.” Here the person is not content to give us directions and leave us to it. Here is a person who is willing to be our guide. It’s a tonic to meet someone like that. – The way to God is the most important way of all. It’s the way that has baffled many. At the Last Supper the apostle, Thomas, asked Jesus, “Show us the way to the Father.” Jesus might have given a set of complicated directions. He didn’t. He did something better. He said, “I am the way. No one can come to the Father except through me.”
Flor McCarthy in ‘New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies’

An eternal home

It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of home. But we have to go out into the world to know how lovely our own home is. But imagine if we had no home to go to. Nelson Mandela told of how during the long years of his imprisonment on Robbin Island he had a recurring nightmare. He said: “In that dream, I had been released from prison –only it was not Robbin Island but a jail in Johannesburg. I walked outside the gates into the city and found no one to meet me. In fact there was no one there at all, no people, no cars, no taxis. I would then set out on foot towards Soweto. I walked for many hours before arriving in Orlando West, and then turned the corner towards No. 8115. Finally, I would see my home, but it turned out to be empty, a ghost house, with all the doors and windows open but no one there at all.” Truly, it is impossible to exaggerate the importance of home. When things fail, when we feel tired and lonely, there is always home to go to. It is not only on earth that we need a home. We also need a home to go to when death brings down the curtain on the day of our life. Without such a home life would be a journey to nowhere. For believers, we spend our lives searching for God, and grouping our way towards God. To die is to go to God, and to go to God is to go home.
Flor McCarthy in ‘New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies’

He wanted to be a dropout!
It was 1950. The old cardinal of Naples was in his office and seated before him was a young priest who was asking for permission to become a drop-out. He wanted to live on the streets of Naples with the alley boys. The old Cardinal could not take it. He knew what life was in Naples: 200,000 out of work; young boys hanging on the streets because their parents were without work. They lived by stealing, begging and black marketeering. They slept on the streets and dodged the police. This young priest, Mario Borelli, wanted to help them, give them a roof over their heads, and a bit of human warmth. That the cardinal could understand. But why must the priest become a drop out himself? Mario knew exactly why: "If I go to these boys as a priest they will spit in my face. They are fearfully distrustful." After ten days the Cardinal approved. Mario went on the streets. He begged, collected cigarette butts and became a vagrant. Gradually he won the hearts of those youngsters. When he found a primitive shelter his youth went with him. They weren't able to do otherwise -they were drawn to him. Mario had something irresistible about him. They had no word for it because it was something they had never before experienced. How could they know that word was love? Perhaps we can now better understand why God became man. He wanted to be one with us!

Living life to the full
Henry David Thoreau was an American writer and philosopher. At one point of his life he decided to take time out. He went to live for two years in a shack in the woods in Maine. In his book, Walden, he tells us why. He says, “I went into the woods to confront the essential facts of life, lest when I come to die I should discover that I had never lived.” We should live in such a way that we won’t look back and regret that we had wasted our life. G.K. Chesterton talks about how sad it is when someone dies ‘with all the music inside him.’ We could add: how sad it is to die, with all the life, all the love, and all the joy inside one. Life is generous to those who seize it with both hands. Thoreau says, “Fear not that your life will end; fear rather, that it may never have begun.
Flor McCarthy in ‘New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies’

Have you enjoyed life?

There is a delightful Spanish legend that goes like this. When people arrive at the gate of heaven seeking to enter, St. Peter asks them a strange question. He says to each one, “Tell me this. Have you taken advantage of all the earthly joys which God in his goodness made available to you while you were on earth?” If a person answers, “No I haven’t,” Peter shakes his head sadly and says, “Alas, my friend, I can’t let you in –not yet at any rate. How can you be ready for the heavenly joys if you have not prepared yourself for them through the medium of earthly ones? I shall be obliged to send you back down to earth until you learn better.”
Flor McCarthy in ‘New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies’


From Fr. Tony Kadavil’s Collection

1)    ”My Father’s house.”   

When St. John Chrysostom was summoned before the Roman Emperor Arcadius and threatened with banishment, he replied, “You cannot banish me, for the world is my Father’s house.”  “Then I will kill you,” exclaimed the Emperor angrily.  “No, you cannot,” retorted Chrysostom, “because my life is hidden with Christ in God.”  “Your treasures shall be confiscated,” the Emperor replied grimly. “Sir, you can’t do that because my treasures are in heaven as my heart is there.”  “I will drive you from your people and you shall have no friends left,” threatened the Emperor.  “That you cannot do either, Sir, for I have a Friend in heaven who has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’”  In today’s Gospel Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life, gives us the same assurance.  “In my Father's house there are many dwelling places.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.”  

2)    Surprises in Heaven:   

A few years ago, a minister of the United Methodist Church was forced out of his congregation and the ministry because he had the “audacity to preach heresy” during his Sunday sermon:  "I'm in a church,” he said, “which acts as if God has a very small house, with only a few rooms and only one door.  But thanks be to God, God's house, according to Jesus, has many rooms, many places to dwell.  If it were not so, he would have told us."  To add fuel to the fire, he explained his theory with a story.  A good man died and was ushered into heaven, which appeared to be an enormous house.  An angel began to escort him down a long hallway past "many rooms".  "What's in that room?" the man asked, pointing to a very somber-looking group of people chanting a Gregorian Mass.  "That's the Roman Catholic room,” said the angel.  “Very high church.”  "What's in that noisy room?" the man asked, pointing to a group of white-clothed people dancing, clapping and singing and occasionally shrieking out loud.  "That's the Pentecostal group," said the angel.  "Very lively."  "What's in that room?" asked the man, pointing to a group of bald-headed people meditating to the sound of an enormous gong."  That's the Zen group," said the angel.  "Very quiet.  You would hardly know they were here."  Then the angel stopped the man, as they were about to round a corner.  "Now, when we get to the next room," said the angel, "I would appreciate it if you would tiptoe past.  We mustn't make any sound."  "Why's that?" asked the man.  "Because in that room there's a bunch of very fundamentalist Christians; and they think they're the only ones here."  In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives a true picture of his Father’s house. 

3)    The tremendous claim by Jesus

The sages of India prayed the “Guru mantra” in Sanskrit language every morning centuries before Christ:  “From falsehood lead me to truth, from darkness lead me to light, from mortality lead me to immortality” (“Aasato Ma Sath Gamaya, Thamaso Ma Jyothir Gamaya, Mrtjyor Ma Amritham Gamaya”). Centuries later Jesus gave the answer to their prayer through his tremendous claim: "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life."  In fact, Jesus took three of the great basic concepts of the Jewish religion, and made the unique claim that in him all the three found their full realization.  This means that he alone is the surest way to God.  He alone can authoritatively and flawlessly teach us truths about God and he alone can give God’s life to us. John’s central message is that Jesus is both the revealer and the revelation of God. If we wish to know who God is, what God thinks and what God wants of us, we must attend to Jesus the Word of God.

4)    Jesus is the Way 

We go to God the Father who is Truth and Life through Jesus and we call Jesus the "Way" because he is the visible manifestation in human form of all that his Father is. To those who teach that all religions lead us to God or that religion is immaterial provided man lead a good life, Jesus has the answer that he is the safest and surest way to God because he came from God and he can lead us to his heavenly Father.  The founders of other religions had either wrong ideas about the way to God or they were not sure guides.  Lao-Tse (604-531 BC), the founder of Taoism said: “Get rid of all desires, you will have a contented life on earth, but I am not sure about the next life.”  Buddha taught people to reach self-realization through total detachment and “nirvana”, but he was not sure if these would lead one to God.  Confucius confessed that he did not know of an eternal life or the way to attain it.  The founder of Islam, Mohammed Nabi, admitted that he had no hope of the future unless Allah should put His mantle of mercy on him.  However, Jesus claims that he is the only way to God. When a Person is a Way for us to get to the Father and everlasting life, that Way is found only in our relationship with Him, that is, in our union with Him in mind and heart, in will and action. But Jesus’ sure way to God is the narrow way of the cross.  It is the least-traveled way of humble, loving, self-giving and committed service to others. To follow the Way of Jesus is to become a special kind of person, a person whose whole being reflects the Truth and the Life that Jesus reveals to us.  It is to be a person of Truth and Life who is totally identified with the vision and the values of Jesus.  The medieval monk Thomas à Kempis the author of Imitation of Christ explains Jesus’ statement, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life” thus: "Without the way, there is no going; without the truth, there is no knowing; and without the life, there is no living.” 

5)    Jesus is the Truth

Gandhi said, “God is truth.”  Jesus is the truth because he is the only one who reveals to us the whole truth about God.  He teaches us that God is a loving, merciful, providing and forgiving Father.  He also teaches us the truth that our triune God lives in each one of the believers.  Jesus is the truth also because he has borne testimony to truth, demonstrating through his life and death the love of God for human beings. Truth here is that complete integrity and harmony which Jesus himself revealed, not only in what he said and did, but in the total manifestation of his life and person.  Jesus is the truth, the word of God. To seek the truth elsewhere is to stumble and fall, to deal in falsehood and lies. So we pray the 86th Psalm, "Teach me thy way, O Lord, and I will walk in thy truth." For us to live the Truth in that Way is also to be fully alive, to be a "fully-functioning person,” responding totally to that abundance of life which Jesus has come to give us.

6)    Jesus is the Life 

As God, Jesus has eternal life in himself.  In addition, he is the one who gives us his life-giving Holy Spirit.  Jesus is the Life also in the sense that he allows us to share in God’s Life through the sacraments. Christ rose from the dead for two reasons: first, to give us eternal life; second, to make us fully alive now. His Spirit animates every moment of our lives. To be fully alive is to be in God. Thomas a Kempis of The Imitation of Christ fame wrote, "Without the Way, there is no going. Without the Truth, there is no knowing. Without the Life, there is no living."

Additional Stories from Father TK

1) “You have Faith in God; have Faith also in me” (John 14:1). 
 Dr. Robert Schuller, that legendary advocate of “Possibility Thinking,” says that there are two words that have killed more God-inspired dreams and hopes than anything else he can think of.  These two words are "Be realistic!"  If we Christians, Dr. Schuller says, were "realistic" then nothing would be accomplished.  But if we have real, dynamic Faith in God and in Jesus His Son we can do anything.  He cites the example of Tom Dempsey--a young man who was born with half a right foot and a deformed right arm but a ton of faith.  Dempsey wanted to be a football player--in spite of his considerable handicaps.  And he did play football.  He became a kicker for his high school team.  But that wasn't enough.  He wanted to play college ball.  And again, he became the kicker on his college team.  But when he graduated from college, his dream became even wilder and more fantastic.  He wanted to be a professional football player!  A professional football player with half a foot and a deformed right arm!   Impossible!  No coach would accept him.  They all shook their heads - all except one. And it is ironic and more than coincidental that Dempsey became a kicker for the professional football team, The New Orleans SAINTS!  The rest, as they say, is history.  In 1972, Dempsey kicked the longest field goal ever--63 yards!  All because he was not "realistic"!  All because, Schuller tells us, Tom Dempsey had Faith in Jesus Christ who gave him the strength to do what he dreamed.

2) “Is anyone down there?”
There is the story of a man who fell off a cliff.  On the way down he manages to grab a tree limb.  Peering into a deep canyon, he calls out, Help, please. Is anyone down there?” After an unbearable silence, a voice answers, “Yes, I am here.” “Who are you?” the man shouts. “It’s Me, the Lord!” Greatly relieved, the man says, “Thank you.  Have you come to rescue me?” “Yes,” says the Lord.  “Let go. I will catch you.”  The man thinks for a second, and then asks, “Is there anyone else down there?”  Well, we can understand the man’s reluctance to let go, but, in reality, there is no one else down there.  Jesus says it quite plainly this Sunday, “I am the Way” (Jn 14:6).  He does not say a way, but the way.

3) They think they are the only ones up here."
Bill O'Reilly of the O'Reilly Factor summed up this thinking perfectly in one of his "talking points" by telling a joke about a certain denomination and then making his point. He said, "Saint Peter was leading a group of new arrivals on their first tour of heaven. Suddenly he stopped and put his finger to his mouth. "Shhh," he whispered. "We can't make a sound when we walk by this room. Remember that." When they passed out of hearing range one of the new souls asked, "Why?" Peter replied, "Because that room is full of Southern Baptists and they think they are the only ones up here."

4) "How many of you would like to go to Heaven?"
A Sunday School teacher asked the children in her class: "How many of you would like to go to Heaven?" All of the children raised their hands except one little guy named Derrick. When the teacher asked him why he didn't want to go to Heaven, he said, "I'm sorry Mrs. Smith, but my Mommy told me to come home right after the Sunday school class, and she was fixing an apple pie for me." Well, like that little boy, Heaven is still a desire and a dream for most people. For example 77% of Americans believe in Heaven, and 76% of Americans believe their chances of getting there are "good or excellent.” Now there are still some people who either don't believe in Heaven or don't care to go there even if there is one. The psychologist, Sigmund Freud, said, "Heaven was a human fantasy rooted in man's instinct for self-preservation." Harvard philosopher, Alfred North Whitehead, once asked, "Can you imagine anything more appallingly idiotic than the Christian idea of Heaven?" It is not idiotic for those who accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior and who believe in his promise of a heavenly abode as described in today’s Gospel. 

5) "Who do you think is 'very likely' to go to Heaven?”
U. S. News and World Report did a poll a few years ago of one thousand respondents, and they asked this question: "Who do you think is 'very likely' or 'somewhat likely' to go to Heaven?" They asked this question about thirteen prominent figures. You will be fascinated by the results. Of all of the celebrities, the biggest vote-getter was Mother Teresa at 79%. Who came in second? Oprah Winfrey at 66%. Third place went to Michael Jordan at 65%. Fourth place went to Colin Powell at 61%. Princess Diana scored an impressive 60%. But when it came to politicians, the figures began to plummet. Al Gore and Hillary Rodham Clinton each scored 55%. Coming in next was President Bill Clinton at 52% (keep in mind this was before the later scandals). But then what is surprising is to find that even heavenly connections didn't seem to help much in some cases. Only 47% thought that the popular televangelist Pat Robertson had an inside track to heaven. The bottom figure was O. J. Simpson who gathered only 19% of the vote. But this is the amazing part. The biggest vote-getter of all was those who were surveyed, because more than 87% of Americans surveyed, believed that they were most likely to go to Heaven. In today’s Gospel Jesus assures his disciples that he is leaving them to prepare Heavenly abodes for them.

6) “Show us the Father."
Where is God when evil is more evident than good? "Show us the Father" when evil seems to have its way. The July, 1990, issue of Time magazine reported that at least 600,000 Americans are infected with the AIDS virus, more than 136,000 have become sick, and some 83,000 of those have died. Victims of the disease basically fall into two categories: people who have had sex with infected individuals and drug addicts who acquired the virus from contaminated needles, which brings another monumental dilemma into the picture - drug abuse. What we really want to know is, "Where is God when evil has its way?" and the ache deep down in our souls causes us to cry out, "Show us the Father." Christian friend, it is all in knowing how to look. Many of you will remember that several years ago one of the Russian cosmonauts left his capsule and floated in space, remarking to the mission control that he did not "see" God anywhere. C. S. Lewis has said, "If a man never sees God on the earth, he will never see him in space; but if a man sees God here in the faces of men and women in his daily life, then when you hurl him into space, he will put his hand upon the face of God." Lewis concludes, "The seeing eye is tremendously important." The eye discerns such evidence as it is equipped to acknowledge.  

7) True Story:
The phone rang at 1:00am in the home of Leo Winters, a brilliant Chicago surgeon. It was the hospital telling him that a young boy had been tragically mangled in a car accident. Dr. Winter's hands were probably the only ones in the city skilled enough to save that boy's life. He got on his clothes, jumped into his car and decided the quickest route to the hospital would be to drive through a dangerous neighborhood, but since time was critical, he decided to take the risk. He came to a stoplight and when he did, a man in a gray hat and a dirty flannel shirt, opened the door, pulled him out of his seat and screamed, "Give me your car!" The doctor tried to explain that he was on an emergency call, but the thief refused to listen. He threw the doctor out of the car, jumped in and sped off. This doctor wandered for more than 45 minutes looking for a phone so he could call a taxi. When he finally got to the hospital, more than an hour had passed. He ran through the hospital doors, up the stairs, to the nurse's station. The nurse on duty looked at him and shook her head and said, "Doctor I am sorry, but you are too late. The boy died about 30 minutes ago. His father is in the chapel if you want to see him. He is awfully upset, because he couldn't understand why you didn't come to help." Doctor Winters walked hurriedly down the hallway and entered into that chapel. Weeping at the altar was a man dressed in a dirty flannel shirt and gray hat, whose eyes were blinded by tears. The boy's father looked up at the doctor in horror and realized his tragic mistake. He had foolishly pushed away the only man in that city who could have saved his son. (Kent Crockett, Making The Day Count For Eternity, pp. 27-28.) There is only one person that can save your soul. When you exit this life, at the moment you die, you will enter into eternity. If you intend to go to Heaven, you had better make sure you take the one Way, which is the only way and His name is Jesus Christ.

8) “I am at home in my Father's house:
The great 18th century Bible commentator, Matthew Henry, anticipating that some would unduly mourn his passing, wrote these words of comfort and assurance: "Would you like to know where I am? I am at home in my Father’s House, in the mansions prepared for me here. I am where I want to be--no longer on the stormy sea, but in God's safe, quiet harbor. My sowing time is done and I am reaping; my joy is as the joy of harvest. Would you like to know how it is with me? I am made perfect in holiness. Grace is swallowed up in glory. Would you like to know what I am doing? I see God, not as through a glass darkly, but face to face. I am engaged in the sweet enjoyment of my precious Redeemer. I am singing hallelujahs to Him who sits upon the throne, and I am constantly praising Him. Would you know what blessed company I keep? It is better than the best on earth. Here are the holy angels and the spirits of just men made perfect...I am with many of my old acquaintances with whom I worked and prayed, and who have come here before me. Lastly, would you know how long this will continue? It is a dawn that never fades! After millions and millions of ages, it will be as fresh as it is now. Therefore, weep not for me!"

9) Do not be afraid:
I heard a story about a fella out in Los Angeles who had a strange phobia.  He was afraid to cross the street.  He felt perfectly at ease when he was in his car riding along the street, but when he was out walking and would come to an intersection, his face would begin to flow with perspiration, his heart would begin to palpitate and his blood pressure would soar up, and his knees would become Jello.  It was a very real problem.  There are times when you simply have to cross the street.  At last he thought he’d better seek out a psychiatrist to help him with the problem.  And he found one who told him that he could help him overcome that fear.  And the psychiatrist told him that the first thing he needed to do was to imagine himself, just to sit back and use his mind, and imagine himself going back and forth across street, and going back and forth across the street unharmed.  And then after he’d done that, he was to go out at a time when traffic would be least, and go ahead and begin to cross and re-cross intersections until he felt comfortable.  But how in the world in Los Angeles could you find a time of day when it would be least busy?  The psychiatrist told him to go on Sunday morning – on Sunday morning the Catholics would be at Mass, the Protestants would be on the golf course, and the Jews would be out at Palm Springs.  So, all week long, all week long, he practiced in his mind crossing the intersection – back and forth in his imagination. And then on Sunday morning, he went out and he walked across the first intersection he came to only to be struck down by a Seventh Day Adventist who was on his way to work. Jesus’ word is clear.  We need not fear the future.  Death is not the end for Christians.  Death is the intersection between our earth life and our eternal life, and we need have no fear crossing that intersection.  Our doubts need not suppress the pull of our discontent. Heaven is ahead and Jesus is there.  He has prepared a place for us.  In Heaven we will be with him.

10) "No, God has not revealed himself in any religion:”
Karl Barth was lecturing to a group of students at Princeton. One student asked the German theologian "Sir, don't you think that God has revealed himself in other religions and not only in Christianity?" Barth's answer stunned the crowd. With a modest thunder he answered, "No, God has not revealed Himself in any religion, including Christianity. He has revealed Himself in His Son." In no uncertain terms let me say to you this morning that there are three great religions in the world today: Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. But there is only one Son of God; only One through whom God has revealed Himself and only One whose teachings stand above all others. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life for all men and women.

11) “He died and went to Heaven."
Did you know it's politically incorrect to preach about Heaven? The cultural referees say it is escapist or hopelessly sentimental. Hollywood and the media generally teach that this world is all there is. According to their version, you better get all you can now, because your death is just like that of dogs and cats. I heard about a little four-year-old boy who was walking on the beach with his mother. They came upon a dead seagull. The little boy asked, "Mommy, what happened to him?" She said, "He died and went to Heaven." The little boy pondered that a moment and then asked, "And did God just throw him back down?"

12) "Birds sing after a storm," she said, "Why shouldn't we?"
At age ninety-three, Rose Kennedy was being interviewed by a magazine reporter. By this time, four of her nine children had died violently. Another daughter, Rosemary, severely retarded all her life, would soon be gone. Mrs. Kennedy had outlived her husband long enough to have seen his rather profligate and unscrupulous life told and retold in the press. She was an old lady, hit by tragedies again and again. The reporter asked about all this and Rose Kennedy answered, slowly: "I have always believed that God never gives a cross to bear larger than we can carry. And I have always believed that, no matter what, God wants us to be happy. He doesn’t want us to be sad. Birds sing after a storm," she said, "Why shouldn’t we?"

13) "I see I am not your first visitor."
In his book The Transforming Friendship, Leslie Weatherhead passes on to us a lovely story of an old Scotsman who, when he was very ill, was visited by his minister. As the minister sat down on a chair by the bedside, he noticed on the other side of the bed another chair placed at such an angle as to suggest that a visitor had just left. "Well, Donald," said the minister, glancing at the chair, "I see I am not your first visitor." The old Scotsman looked up in surprise, so the minister pointed to the chair. "Ah," said the sick man, "I'll tell you about that chair. Years ago I found it impossible to pray. I often fell asleep on my knees, I was so tired. And if I kept awake, I could not control my thoughts from wandering. One day I was so worried I spoke to the minister about it. He told me not to worry about kneeling down. "Just sit down," he said, "and put a chair opposite you. Imagine that Jesus is in it, and talk to Him as you would to a friend." Then the Scotsman added, "And I have been doing that ever since." A week later the daughter of the old man drove up to the minister's house and knocked. She was shown into his study, and when the minister came, she said quietly, "Father died in the night. I had no idea the end was so near. I had just gone to lie down for an hour or two. He seemed to be sleeping so comfortably. When I discovered that he was gone, he hadn't moved since I last saw him, EXCEPT THAT HIS HAND WAS OUT ON THE EMPTY CHAIR AT THE SIDE OF HIS BED." Jesus said, "I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you." And He, my friends, is a Man and God of His Word! Thanks be to God!

14) "Do not be troubled":
During the Second World War, Prime Minister Winston Churchill gave some of the most stirring speeches of all times. After England had suffered a demoralizing defeat at Dunkirk, Churchill reminded the House of Commons about their commitment to ultimate victory. He said: “Victory at all costs, victory in spite of terror, victory however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival. We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas, we shall fight in the air. We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall never surrender.” With words like that, Churchill aroused the hearts of his people to remain undaunted, even though they were on the verge of destruction. He encouraged them not to lose faith, however fierce the fight became. In today’s Gospel Jesus gives one of his own stirring speeches. The scene is the Last Supper, his disciples are present, and the time is the eve of his darkest hour, the day of his death. And yet, in spite of knowing that the worst is about to occur, Jesus tells his disciples: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Have Faith in God and Faith in me.” (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds; quoted by Fr. Botelho).  

15) You can make a difference!
On November 26, 1965, Time Magazine had a story that can give us all food for thought. An electrical fuse about the size of a breadbox failed, resulting in 80,000 square miles along the US-Canadian border being plunged in darkness. All the electrical power for that entire region passed through that single fuse. Without that fuse no power could reach any point in that vast region. Like that fuse box each of us has a tremendous potential for good or evil, which can affect a multitude. Jesus promises us believers all His power and even more. All we have to do is walk the way he walked and be Jesus to a waiting world! (Anonymous; quoted by Fr.           Botelho). 

16) He wanted to be a dropout:
It was 1950. The old cardinal of Naples was in his office and seated before him was a young priest who was asking for permission to become a drop-out. He wanted to live on the streets of Naples with the alley boys. The old Cardinal could not take it. He knew what life was in Naples: 200,000 out of work; young boys hanging on the streets because their parents were without work and could not feed them. They lived by stealing, peddling stolen goods, begging and black marketeering. They slept on the streets and were like wild cats and dodged the police. This young priest, Mario Borelli, wanted to help them, give them a roof over their heads, bread and a bit of human warmth. That the cardinal could understand. But why must the priest become a drop-out himself? Mario knew exactly why: "If I go to these boys as a priest they will spit in my face. They are fearfully distrustful." The cardinal considered. "Give me ten days to think it over." After ten days he approved. Mario went on the streets, an old cap back to front on his head, in ragged clothes, a cigarette end in the corner of his mouth. He begged, collected cigarette butts and became a vagrant. Gradually he won the hearts of those youngsters. Soon he was even the head of the gang. When he found a primitive shelter his youth went with him. They weren't able to do otherwise -they were drawn to him. Mario had something irresistible about him. They had no word for it because it was something they had never before experienced. How could they know that word was love? Perhaps we can now better understand why God became man. He wanted to be one with us to show us the way and save us, “God-with-us,” that is Jesus, the Way to the Father. (Pierre Lefevre, quoted by Fr.  Botelho). 

17) St. Augustine’s discovery of God: 
Late have I loved You, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved You! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for You. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which You created. You were with me, but I was not with You. Created things kept me from You; yet if they had not been in You they would have not been at all. You called, You shouted, and You broke through my deafness. You flashed, You shone, and You dispelled my blindness. You breathed Your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for You. I have tasted You; now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for Your peace.  (St. Augustine, The Confessions X, Chapter 27/Section 38; quoted by Fr. Kayala). 

18) Showing the way:
Like the shepherd, and like Jesus, a mother has a close and deep relationship to her flock or family. There’s nothing she wouldn’t do to protect them from danger. And there’s nowhere she wouldn’t go to seek out the one who strays or gets lost. A mother’s love for her family functions even when she can no longer protect her children herself. There’s a beautiful story in the autobiography of Jimmy Cagney, the famous Hollywood actor. It takes place in Cagney’s youth when his mother is on her deathbed. Around the bed were the four Cagney boys and Jeannie, their only sister. Because of a stroke, Mrs. Cagney could no longer speak. After she had hugged each of her five children, she lifted her right arm, the only one that was still functioning. Jimmy describes what happened next: “Mom indicated Harry with the index finger of her useless hand, she indicated me with her second finger, she indicated Eddie with her third finger and with her fourth finger, she indicated Bill. Then she took the thumb, moved it to the middle of her palm, and clasped the thumb tightly under the four fingers. Then she patted this fist with her good hand.” Jimmy says her gesture was beautiful. Everyone knew what it meant. The four brothers were to protect Jeannie after their mother was gone. It was gesture that no words could have duplicated in beauty and meaning. (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). 

19) Gandhi’s “Dandi March:
The “Dandi March” initiated on March 12, 1930, was a landmark in India’s freedom struggle. Mahatma Gandhi walked with 78 hunger strikers (Satyagrahis) for 23 days from Sabarmati Ashram to the coastal town of Dandi about 380 kilometers away in defiance of the salt tax imposed by the British. In his book My Experiments with Truth, Gandhiji writes that he instructed people: ‘to make salt along the seashore wherever it was most convenient and comfortable.” The 75th anniversary of this event was commemorated in 2005 with Indian and foreign pilgrim-yatris retracing this historic “way.” Indeed, great leaders have imprinted wondrous “ways” on the sands of time. -You’ve probably read the “Footprints in the Sand” anecdote. When the man complains that he saw only one set of footprints in the sand during his trials and sufferings, the Lord replies, “Those footprints are mine! It was then that I carried you!” We can joyfully sing that popular song, “We’re on Our Way to Heaven” not because we’ve discovered salvific ways to Life, but because Jesus – the Way and the Vehicle – carries us heavenward. (Francis Gonsalves in Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
20) They knit together with prayer:
A group of women meet one or two evenings a week.  They light a candle and offer a prayer together, perhaps sing a hymn.  Then they begin their sacred work. The women are part of a ministry that has touched many lives in many churches and parishes.  They knit and crochet prayer shawls.  The shawls are given to individuals suffering through a time of transition, crisis, illness or need.  A wedding, the birth of a child, a broken bone, an illness, the death of a loved one -- all are occasions for the “hug” in the shape of a shawl.  While stitching, the maker of the shawl holds that person in her thoughts, making the very act of knitting a prayer. Those who receive the shawls say that they feel loved, cared for and, most of all, surrounded by God’s love and compassion.  They are deeply moved to know that someone has cared enough to pray for them and to make a cozy, warm, comforting gift.  The mother of a young girl battling cancer told the knitters in her parish that her daughter said that when she felt bad, she wrapped herself up tightly in the shawl and it made her feel better.  Another woman refused to take her shawl off during her final months of life because it was her “scarf of love.”  Many who have known the solace of a prayer shawl in their last months ask to be buried with the shawl around their shoulders. But the knitters believe that they receive as much from making the shawls as do those who receive them.  Their simple knitting and gentle prayer become offerings and symbols of God's compassion for others -- and God is as present to them as they knit as He is to those who will wrap themselves up in the loving warmth of the shawl itself. [From “Knit Together with Prayer” by the Rev. Susan S. Izard, Spirituality & Health (November/December 2004.  For more on the prayer shawl ministry, visit the website] To do the simplest work of compassion and charity in God's spirit of love is to do the very work of Christ; the most hidden and unseen acts of kindness will be exalted by Christ as great in the Kingdom of his Father.  On the night before he died, Jesus asks his disciples to take up “the work that I do” – the work of humble servanthood that places the hurts and pain of others before our own, the work of charity that does not measure the cost, the work of love that transcends limits and conditions. (Connections).

Eric Clapton, arguably the greatest living rock guitarist, wrote a heart wrenching song about the death of his four year old son. He fell from a 53rd-story window. Clapton took nine months off and when he returned his music had changed. The hardship had made his music softer, more powerful, and more reflective. You have perhaps heard the song he wrote about his son's death.  

It is a song of hope:  
Would you know my name if I saw you in heaven?
Would it be the same if I saw you in heaven?
I must be strong and carry on,
'Cause I know I don't belong here in heaven.  

Would you hold my hand if I saw you in heaven?
Would you help me stand if I saw you in heaven?
I'll find my way through night and day,
'Cause I know I just can't stay here in heaven. 
Time can bring you down, time can bend your knees.
Time can break your heart, have you begging please, begging please.
Beyond the door there's peace I'm sure,
And I know there'll be no more tears in heaven.   

Jesus has just had the Passover meal with his disciples. He has washed their feet in an act of servanthood. He has foretold his betrayal which Judas will soon perform. He has predicted Peter's denial. He has told them he is leaving. But he adds this word of hope: Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house there are many rooms. I go to prepare a place for you and will come again and take you to myself. So that where I am, you may be also.  
Hardship has a way of getting our attention. Pain slows us down. Very few us, after facing a trial, come out the same way we entered in. Jesus understood this and attempted to prepare his disciples for the road ahead.

The difference between learning a language and living a language is shown by how well we understand the unique idioms of our new TGiF world (Twitter, Google, instagram, Facebook). Living languages change and adapt to the worlds they are living in. So there is a constant invention of new words, and even new dictionaries, like Urban Dictionary, that tells us daily what these new words mean.   

Ancient Latin and Koine Greek are beautiful, expressive languages. They speak of love in a language of love that is unsurpassed in beauty and vibrancy. They are languages that speak about our greatest desires for spiritual connections too. But these ancient languages have not been spoken for millennia. And they do not have any special words for new designations like the internet, or robots, or string theory, or sushi.   

English has always been "on the move." What is most familiar to you today? Words like "Facebook," "Twitter," "iPad," "Face Time," "Fandango," "Snap Chat," "Apps." These would have been gibberish a decade ago. In March of 2014, some of the words added to the definitive and prestigious Oxford English Dictionary included: crap shoot, honky-tonker, selfie, twerk, wackadoodle, bestie, bookaholic, scissor-kick, do-over, DIYer, to name just a few. Today these strange new words are guideposts to our daily lives. That is the way a "living language" keeps alive. It keeps changing. It re-invents itself all the time. A fossil language does not communicate. A fossil faith does not communicate, much less change the world.   

In the first century, there were lots of words being revisited, reframed, and reinvented. As the disciples and first followers of Jesus encountered the reality of the cross, and then the shock of the empty tomb, the whole concept of "Messiah" was looked over and under in a fresh way.  
From the Hebrew tradition of Isaiah (28:16), God is identified as a foundation stone. God is an immovable rock, the primordial solid stone. Peter himself had been identified as "petros," the movable stone as opposed to petra, the immovable bedrock. Peter knew his own weaknesses all too well and chose to write about a new kind of "rock." The image Peter offers is even weirder than the identity Jesus had given him as a "stone," as a petros (me stone), and upon this petra (we bedrock) Jesus promised to build his church. The Me is built upon the We. In Christ Peter's insecurities will be made solid, as will ours...   
The rest of this sermon can be obtained by joining 
What's With the Fork?  
A woman was diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. As she was getting her things in order, she contacted her pastor and asked him to come to her house to discuss some of her final wishes. 
She told him which songs she wanted sung at her funeral service, what Scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in. She requested to be buried with her favorite Bible. 

As the pastor prepared to leave, the woman suddenly remembered something else. "There's one more thing," she said excitedly.
"What's that?" said the pastor.
"This is important," the woman said. "I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand." 
The pastor stood looking at the woman, not knowing quite what to say.  

The woman explained. "In all my years of attending church socials and potluck dinners, when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, 'Keep your fork.' It was my favorite part of the meal because I knew something better was coming-like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. 
"So, when people see me in that casket with a fork in my hand and they ask, 'What's with the fork?' I want you to tell them: 'Keep your fork. The best is yet to come!'"
Alan Carr, Biblical Facts about a Place Called Heaven
One Way Out   
The year was 1275 BC, before Christ. The land was Egypt. The ruler was Pharaoh. The leader of the Jews was Moses. The Jews had been in slavery for four hundred years to the Egyptians, building their cities and pyramids. But God had sent the plagues, and now the Jewish nation was beginning their exodus from slavery. And at this particular moment, they were stopped by a body of water, the Red Sea, the Red Sea, and the Egyptian chariots and horses were rapidly coming to attack and bring death and extinction. It seemed there was no way out and then a miracle. Suddenly, before them, the Red Sea opened up and there was only one way. Only one way out. Only one way to avoid death and extinction and that was through the Red Sea.
That paradigm, that visual image of only one way out of death and extinction is deeply woven into the theology of the Old Testament and New Testament. I still can clearly see a picture poster from a Bible Series that I used to teach of a high piece of land on the left, a deep chasm in the middle and a high piece of land on the right. The high piece of land on the left represented Earth; the high piece on the right represented Heaven; and then there was a bridge in the form of a cross that went from Earth to Heaven. It was only on the cross of Christ that we moved from Earth to Eternity. It was the only way. It is the only way. 

Edward F. Markquart, Only One Way Out
The Perfect Church  
Those of us who are part of the Church know we are not what Jesus called us to be. We spend too much and share too little; we judge too many and love too few; we wait too long and act too late. Perhaps you are saying, "Show me a church where ministers aren't self­-serving; where hypocrisy has been purged away; where church members don't waste time and energy squabbling over petty details; where love is genuine, and I'll become a member." You'll wait a long time, my friend, for such a church takes up no space on this earth. It has floated up, up, up and disappeared beyond Oz.  
Or perhaps, such a church lives as a memory -- a time when disciples believed, when faith could move mountains, and motives were pure. 
Barbara K. Lundblad, The Body of Christ Takes Up Space on Earth

The Wednesday Worry Box  
Sometimes, if you will just wait, problems take care of themselves. J. Arthur Rank had a system for doing that. He was one of the early pio­neers of the film industry in Great Britain, and he also happened to be a devout Christian.   

Rank found he could not push his worries out of his mind completely; they were always slipping back in. So he finally made a pact with God to limit his worrying to Wednesday. He even made himself a little Wednesday Worry Box and he placed it on his desk. Whenever a worry cropped up, Rank wrote it out and dropped it into the Wednesday Worry Box.   
Would you like to know his amazing discovery? When Wednesday rolled around, he would open that box to find that only a third of the items he had written down were still worth worrying about. The rest had managed to resolve themselves.    
If you have a troubled heart, ask God to give you a new perspective. Also ask him to give you patience so that you do not jump ahead and worry about a problem that may never come. But most important of all, ask God for more faith. Faith in God is the best remedy for all our problems. Jesus put it plainly, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me."  
King Duncan, Collected Sermons, adapted from Daily Bread, 11 December 1999. Cited by David Jeremiah, Slaying The Giants In Your Life (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2001), pp. 67-68.
Making Anyone Laugh 
The great American humorist, Will Rogers, had the reputation that he could make anyone laugh. President Calvin Coolidge, on the other hand, had the reputation that he never laughed. Want to know what happened the time those two met? Rogers was invited to visit the White House and as was the custom, the president's assistant brought Rogers into the Oval Office. As was the custom as he entered, the assistant said, "President Coolidge, this is Will Rogers. Mr. Rogers, this is President Coolidge." To which Rogers leaned forward and said, "I'm sorry. I didn't catch the name." With that, President Coolidge cracked up and started laughing. 
Don't you wish you were as quick on your feet as he was? Quick with a comeback, quick with just the right thing to say. Well, of all the things that Jesus said, some of the most significant are the words in today's Gospel reading, when Jesus says, "I am the way and the truth and the life." 
Lee Griess, Return to the Lord, Your God, CSS Publishing Company, Inc
An Evening Prayer  
A century ago John Henry Newman wrote an evening prayer which expresses well the whole spirit in which we see the present in the light of that place which Christ has prepared for us:
Support us, O Lord, all the long day of this troubled life until the shadows lengthen, and the evening comes, when the busy fever of life is hushed, and our work is done. Then in thy mercy grant us a safe lodging, a holy rest, and peace at the last, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen 
Dean Lueking, From Ashes to Holy Wind, CSS Publishing Company
When We Glimpse Paradise 
In 1816, Lord Byron wrote a narrative poem that has become a classic. The poem is titled, "The Prisoner of Chillon," and it is the story of a man incarcerated in the dungeon at the Castle of Chillon near Lake Geneva, Switzerland. 
The prisoner was in a narrow, cramped dungeon cell for such a long time that he began to think of it as home. He made friends with the spiders, insects, and mice that shared his cell. They were all inmates of the same dungeon and he was monarch of each race. 
The years in the dark dungeon cell had taken their toll. He was no longer unhappy or uncomfortable. He had grown accustomed to his environment and came to think of his chains as friends. 
One day a bird perched on the crevice of the ledge above and began to sing. It was the sweetest music he had ever heard. Suddenly, the desire to see the outside world overwhelmed him. He grabbed the walls of his cell, and began climbing and struggling up the wall so that he could look out of the little window. In that moment, he saw a world that he had forgotten. There was a crystal blue lake ... and some tall green trees ... and the beautiful little white cottage that he called home nestled against the green hills ... and an eagle soaring majestically across a blue sky.

He saw them all for one magnificent moment and then he fell back into his cell...