5th Sunday Easter A
Sunday 7th May 2023
The Gospel Paraphrased
There are many fine translations of the Gospels readily available. This paraphrase is not meant to replace them. Rather the intention here is to offer a more contemporary rendering so that you can imaginatively translate the Gospel in your own situation.
This Sunday's Gospel Paraphrased
Jn 14: 1-12
After Judas had left to betray Jesus and Jesus, having predicted that Peter would disown him three times that night, went on:
‘Do not be troubled in heart. Believe in God and believe also in me.
In my Father’s house there are many abiding places.
If there weren’t, I wouldn’t have told you about them.
But I am going to prepare a place for you.
If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself,
so that you will be with me where I am.
You know the way to where I am going.’
But Thomas said to him: ‘Lord, we don’t know where you are going
so how can we know the way?’
Jesus replied to him:
‘I am the way, that is the truth and the life.
No-one comes to the Father except through me.
If you had come to really know me,
you would have realised that you had known the Father as well.
So from now on, you do know him and you have seen him.’
Philip said: ‘Lord, show us the Father and that’ll be enough for us!’
Jesus said to him: ‘Oh Philip, have I been with for this long
and you still do not realise that the one who sees me has seen the Father.
How, how can you say, “Show us the Father,”
Don’t you believe that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.
At least, look at the works I have done, and believe because of them.
I’m telling you seriously,
the person believing in me will be able to do the works that I do,
in fact, do even greater works than me,
because I am going to the Father.’
The Psalms are the ancient prayers of the Jewish people, here paraphrased into contemporary language.
This Sunday's Psalm
Ps 32: 1-5, 18-19.
Joyfully sing, good people, to God,
It is a privilege for the upright to praise God.
Praise with harp, praise with guitar,
praise with new songs,
play with all your skill,
let everything in you
sing out with shouts of joy.
For God’s word is true,
the divine deeds, all of them, are faithful.
God’s love never fails in righteousness and justice,
the earth abounds in God’s abundant love.
God watches over those who live in awe,
the people whose hearts trust in the divine love
to rescue them from death,
to sustain them in time of need.
Words cannot contain our desire for God but they help direct our minds and hearts towards God's love and express our needs.
This Sunday's Prayer
Loving God, you sent your Son to live in our midst to show us the Way to you. Send us your Spirit that his Truth may guide us and his Life be the passion of our lives. We ask this in Jesus’ name confident that you will hear us.
The Commentaries Summarised
As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.
This Sunday's Commentary
This Sunday’s reading is the beginning of what is often called The Last Discourse – the series of speeches that the Gospel of John has Jesus giving at the last supper. It is important to situate this opening. When Jesus tells his disciples to not be troubled or distressed in heart, but rather to believe in God and believe in him, he is not just suggesting they try to maintain a calm attitude as they go through life, a ‘put on a happy face’ attitude. Rather, the dynamic of his Passion and Death has just begun with Judas’ departure and the paucity of their human resources to deal with the situation has been revealed in Peter’s foolhardy assertion that he would lay down his life. Jesus clearly, but kindly, lets him know how untrustworthy Peter himself is. In the face of these two very different betrayals, Jesus tells them to be untroubled, because whatever wickedness or weakness humanity might throw at him, God’s love and power will work through the situation.
The verb forms here are often clumsy – not because John was incapable of writing good Greek but rather because the notions that he was trying to express caused the language to slip and break under the strain of the mystery. Present and future tense stumble on each other as he tries to say that Jesus ‘is coming’ and ‘yet will take us’ with him. Jesus is remaining present to us and yet we wait for his future return. This intertwining between past and future is a feature of John’s theology.
When Philip asks to know the way to where Jesus is going, he thinks he is asking for a set of directions on how to go to a place. Jesus replies with one of the “I am” statements that play so crucial a role within this Gospel. His reply to Philip can be translated as ‘I am the way: that is the truth and the life.’ Jesus is the way because he teaches us the truth and gives us the power to live it. Consequently the only way to know the Way to the Father is to embrace the Life and Truth of Jesus.
This section draws up a number of themes from the whole Gospel, stressing how both Jesus’ works and words have really been a revelation of the unity between himself and the Father. Jesus has constantly stated the unity between himself and the Father but Thomas’s question shows how much they have missed the point throughout his ministry.
This discourse is very much a last will and testament. Jesus refers to his departure and assures them that it is only temporary. Later, he will explain this departure and return in relation to the other Paraclete that will be given – the Holy Spirit. Here, he hints at the power that will be given to those who believe in the unity between himself and the Father.
Christian conversion is promoted by conversation. This section is a response to and a development on the knowledge gained from the commentary section.
This Sunday's Exposition
The verb meaning ‘to have enough’ or ‘to be satisfied’ is used twice in John’s Gospel, both times by Philip. In the first instance, back in chapter 6, he tells Jesus that the money they have would not buy enough food to satisfy the crowd. Here, he uses the verb in relation to seeing the Father and ‘being satisfied’. Philip, at this stage, is thinking that the experience of the Father would break into their lives and be something so wondrous, so exhilarating that it would be enough for them. But would it? Throughout his ministry, Jesus has been trying to teach the disciples to stop looking at the miracles as something extraordinary but rather to see them as signs pointing to the reality of who he is in relation to the Father. Belief in Jesus is recognising this relationship and, by that belief, sharing in it ourselves.
The faith that Jesus offers is not one that goes from one extraordinary experience to the next but rather one that ‘sees’ the Father in all events. The extraordinary occurs only to strengthen our faith in the ordinary. If we continually go seeking religious ‘highs’ we will not be ‘satisfied’: we will just be looking for bigger and better experiences. But if we live within the relationship between Jesus and his Father, all the events of life will feed and satisfy our faith and we will be continually surprised by how Jesus truly is our Way, Truth and Life.
Reflection is an essential element of our growth in Christ. As we reflect over what we have learnt and ponder it in our hearts, we come to recognise the presence of God in our lives.
This Sunday's Reflection
When I was a small child, my great-great aunt used to tell a story of when she was a young woman. Her mother had died some years previously, yet in the early morning she saw her come into her room, stand by her bed and pat her knee reassuringly, as if to say: ‘Don’t worry, all will be well.’ A few days later, terrible problems broke out within the wider family but she told me that her mother’s assurance carried her through that time.
Jesus is no ghost when he assures to disciples to trust. He knows the terrible fury of evil that is about to break upon him will test them to the limit and beyond. He knows they will fail…in this instance, but he still reassures them so that in the future, when they are strengthened by the Paraclete, they will do the same works as he does…and what could those works look like? The wondrous work of Jesus’ life was not the miracles but rather forgiveness. This prayer, found in Auschwitz, admirably shows Jesus’ work occurring closer to our time:
Lord, remember not only people of good will
but also people of ill will.
Do not remember only the sufferings
that have been afflicted on us,
but remember too the fruit we have bought
as a result of this suffering:
the comradeship and loyalty,
the humility and courage,
the generosity and greatness of heart
that has grown out of it.
And when they come to judgment,
let all the fruits that we have borne be their forgiveness.
Belief enables the believer to do the works of Jesus and what greater work is there than to believe that God works through all the circumstances of life. When we are in the midst of awful sufferings, it is difficult for us to see where God is in the mess. God simply doesn’t give us the blueprint. But looking back later, we will often see where God has supported, strengthened and graced us through the suffering. To continue in the way of faith, we need to cultivate the habit of reflecting on our lives and appreciate the times when we recognise that God is with us.
Looking at art works or movies is a great way to open ourselves to the meaning of the Gospels. Seeing can bypass our preconceived notions, giving us new vistas of enlightenment. With painting or sculpture one needs to sit quietly and absorb the dynamics of the piece. The drama of movies more easily engages us and offers a way to conversation about the Gospel with other members of your family.
This Sunday's Visual Meditation
– In this painting of Christ the Way by Cornelius Mosma (2006) the light of Christ is shown casts a way across all.
– This piece of graphic art by Cerezo Barredo shows the disciples struggling to understand Jesus.
The purpose of mulling meditations is to offer a few ideas that one can mull about while doing other occupations. There are many things we do in our day that do not require our full attention - some things which are largely done on automatic pilot - like driving a car or peeling the potatoes. While we give these our attention, part of our mind is still at work mulling on other things and unless it is given something positive to feed on, we easily feed on negative thoughts. Personally I find mulling time the most likely time for God to get through to me. Because I am not so conscious of myself, God gets through the cracks and opens my heart to look at life differently.
Two practical times for mulling can be when exercising and when driving. Some small preparations for integrating such prayer into these exercises can be helpful.
As you do your preparatory stretches, pray the line of the Psalm "I praise you God for I am wonderfully made!"
Similarly when doing your concluding stretches use the prayer of St Clare "Praised be you, my God, for creating me!"
Have some music that you find helps you turn you mind and heart to God and play that for the first 10 minutes or so of your trip.
This Sunday's Mulling Meditation
In this Sunday’s Gospel Jesus presents himself as the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Over this coming week mull how each of these facets of the person of Jesus influences your life.
– Mull over the situations when his Way of doing things – with kindness and firmness, with love and truth – influences how you treat people, how you treat yourself.
– Mull over how Jesus’ Truth influences the views you take on life, on what you expect in your local community, in your parish, on what you want in the political life of our country.
– Mull over how you draw life from Jesus. In facing each day, in difficult situations do you draw of Jesus’ Life to fill you and give you direction and strength?
In the Letter of James, we are told that the Scriptures are like a mirror in which we can see ourselves. In this type of meditation we take a piece of Scripture, hold it before us and consider what echoes within our heart. These echoes help us to see who we are before God and how we are loved. What usually echoes in us are situations that we are dealing with in our lives. When something strikes us, we do not actively try to solve the situation or work it through. Rather we sit holding it in God's love. The point of such a meditation is to make space within the situation for God's love to be. In 'sitting with' such a situation, painful or sad, we come to recognise the love of God that is at work on our lives. The suggestions for Mirror reflections can also be used for Exercise reflections but wouldn't be advised for Driving Prayer as often some degree of emotion or distraction might rise in such prayer.
This Sunday's Mirror Meditation
In this Sunday’s Gospel, Philip asks to see the Father, implying some extraordinary experience. Jesus tells us that while he, Jesus, has been with them, they were experiencing the Father through him.
Rest in the love of God.
– Gently think over your ideas of what experiencing God means. Do you see such experiences as something extraordinary, something breaking into your daily life? Or are they woven into the fabric of ordinary existence, as normal at the rising and setting of the sun?
– Think over the ways that God does come to you in life. Open your imagination to see possibilities that you may not have noticed.
– Now resting in God’s love, ask God to enlighten your mind and heart to other ways the divine presence could be at work in your life.
Rest in the wonder and glory of God.