Homily May 7th, 2023

Fifth Sunday of Easter – Year A

Acts 6:1-7, Ps 33:1-2, 4-5, 18-19, 1 Pt 2:4-9, Jn 14:1-12

Dear brothers and sisters, as you might know, this week we will celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Fatima. That feast, on May 13th, recalls the first apparition of Our Lady at Fatima to the children. Perhaps when we think of Fatima, we think of all the different messages regarding penance and the prophecies associated with the apparitions, but interestingly enough the very first words that Mary spoke to the children, in 1917, were: “Do not be afraid. I will do you no harm.”[1] Over and over again, Our Lady of Fatima offered encouragement and consolation to the visionaries. When Lucia asked if she would be left alone after her cousins went to heaven, Our Lady replied, “No, my daughter. . . .  Don’t lose heart. I will never forsake you.”[2] We’re reminded even more of this loving protection of our heavenly Mother when we recall the day is also the anniversary of the assassination attempt on Pope Saint John Paul the Second.

All of this shows us just how much Jesus and His Mother look out for us, and in today’s Gospel we’re reminded that, even in the midst of difficulties and challenges, Christ is there. The Gospel reading continues the Last Supper discourse, and just before it Christ predicts that Peter will deny Him three times, and the passages before that are pretty sad and discouraging. Today, however, Christ gives His Apostles some much-needed encouragement, and we can consider the following words: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me,” and also, “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.”

We can divide these verses into three parts, and consider how each applies to our lives: first, there is something negative, then something positive, and, third, the reason for those things. So, a prohibition, then something to be done, and then the reason for those things.

First, Jesus gives His Apostles a negative command, something they aren’t supposed to do: “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” The Greek word troubled is loaded with meaning: properly speaking, the word for troubled is a verb which means to put in motion, to agitate back-and-forth, to shake to-and-fro, or even to boil water.[3] Figuratively, it means to set in motion what needs to remain still, and when we apply it to a person, it means to cause an inner confusion from getting too stirred up inside. The English words upset or boiling with rage convey this meaning very well.[4] In Biblical language, the word heart doesn’t refer simply to the physical organ: it means the root and center of the entire person.

Note that Jesus tells His Apostles, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” Do not let, meaning, we have a choice. We don’t have to let things bother us. Since the time Adam and Eve disobeyed God, there’s never been any shortage of problems in the world; there will always be difficulties, challenges, scandals, you name it. To let ourselves be easily shaken means that we’ve built our house, not on rock, but on sand; remember that even though there’s a storm, Peter starts to sink only when he takes his eyes off of Jesus.[5] We don’t have to give our hearts and our emotions to every little thing that comes asking for them simply because it comes asking for them!

We can make an analogy with scuba diving: on the surface, oftentimes the water is choppy. However, once you get beneath the surface, the water becomes less and less disturbed. The scientific reason for this is the weight of the water above, but the fact remains, when we live only on the surface, we are easily upset. When we live profoundly, or deeply, little things (or big things, for that matter) don’t bother us. We have to be firmly rooted in Jesus Christ.

That prohibition against worry is important, since our tendency is always to get worked up and worried. However, simply avoiding getting worked up isn’t enough. For this reason, Jesus gives a positive commandment, our second point. He tells His Apostles: “You have faith in God; have faith also in me.” The Greek verb πιστεύω (pisteuó) can also mean “to trust in.”[6] That second verb is an imperative, “Have faith in Me.” Trust Me. Believe Me. We can think of that quote from the Diary of Saint Faustina: Christ told her “The graces of My mercy are drawn by means of one vessel only, and that is – trust.”[7] To trust in God means to set our eyes firmly on Jesus Christ, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.[8] Christ is the real author of history: we’re fooling ourselves if we look at the world and think that everything happens at random, that nothing is planned. Think of the events of Our Lady of Fatima, how everything has worked out. Doesn’t it seem that God has a plan? Trust in Me.

The reason for these commandments can be summarized in the third verse: “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.” In context, that ‘if’ isn’t meant to indicate doubt about whether or not Christ will go and prepare a place; rather, it implies certainty that it will take place, but the time is known only to Christ. The Greek emphasizes that the good things that follow are a result of Christ’s leaving, and sets aside the element of time.[9] We have a great reward awaiting us in heaven. There is no point in losing our peace here and now, when by simply trusting in God, doing what we have to do, and looking towards heaven, we can be assured that Christ will bring us there, where He has prepared the way ahead of us. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He Himself is the Way, and He Himself is the Life that we need in order to obtain salvation. When faced with things that bothered him, Saint Aloysius Gonzaga always used to ask himself, “What is this in light of eternity?” What is this, in light of the eternal happiness that Christ has prepared for me and wants me to have, if only I give myself entirely to Him?

            Today, Christ tells us those three simple things: Do not let yourselves be troubled. Trust in Me. I am preparing heaven for you. As we celebrate Our Lady of Fatima, we are reminded that she intercedes for us constantly in heaven. Sure enough, the sinner arrived within the hour, and made his confession. We have access to that same intercession, that same power, every time we pray to Our Lady.

            Let us ask for the grace, through the intercession of Our Lady of Fatima, for the grace to not let ourselves be troubled, to trust in Christ, and live so as to make it to heaven.

[1] Andrew Apostoli, Fatima for Today (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2010), 44.

[2] Ibid., 54.

[3] Strong’s Concordance 5015.

[4] Cf. HELPS Word-studies 5015 tarássō.

[5] Cf. Mt 7:24-27; Mt 14:29-32.

[6] Strong’s Concordance 4100.

[7] Diary, 1578.

[8] Heb 13:8.

[9] Cf. Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges: “The ‘if’ does not here imply doubt any more than ‘when’ would have done: but we have ‘if’ and not ‘when’ because it is the result of the departure and not the date of it that is emphasized.” Or Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers: “For the form of the expression, comp. notes on John 12:32, and 1John 2:28. It does not imply uncertainty, but expresses that the fact is in the region of the future, which is clear to Him, and will unfold itself to them.”



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