FIRST READING (They chose seven men filled with the Spirit.)
A reading from the Acts of the Apostles (6:1-7)
As the number of disciples continued to grow, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table. Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit, also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles who prayed and laid hands on them. The word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly; even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith. —The Word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
RESPONSORIAL PSALM (33:1-2, 4-5, 18-19)
Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you. (Ps 33:22)
Exult, you just, in the Lord; praise from the upright is fitting. Give thanks to the Lord on the harp; with the ten-stringed lyre chant his praises. (R)
Upright is the word of the Lord, and all his works are trustworthy. He loves justice and right; of the kindness of the Lord the earth is full. (R)
See, the eyes of the Lord are upon those who fear him, upon those who hope for his kindness, to deliver them from death and preserve them in spite of famine. (R)
SECOND READING (You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood.)
A reading from the first Letter of Saint Peter (2:4-9)
Beloved: Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God, and, like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it says in Scripture: Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion, a cornerstone, chosen and precious, and whoever believes in it shall not be put to shame. Therefore, its value is for you who have faith, but for those without faith: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone, and A stone that will make people stumble, and a rock that will make them fall. They stumble by disobeying the word, as is their destiny.
You are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises” of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. —The Word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
GOSPEL ACCLAMATION (Jn 14:6)
I am the way, the truth and the life, says the Lord; no one comes to the Father, except through me. (R)
GOSPEL (I am the way and the truth and the life.)
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John (14:1-12)
Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? 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. Where I am going you know the way.” Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said to him, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.” —The Gospel of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life!”
Many years ago, I was standing at a ferry waiting to visit some other priests across Lake Victoria. As we stood waiting to board the ferry, a man holding a Bible shouted out, “Jesus is my Savior! Have YOU been saved?” As a priest, the question should not have bothered me. But implied in the questions is something deeper, such as, “Are you committed to Jesus in the same way I am?” When that seems to be the meaning behind the question, many of us feel uncomfortable because it comes across as a challenge or even an accusation on the quality of our faith. It also seems to imply that there is only one single authentic way to demonstrate commitment – such as shouting out to people in a public place!
In our Gospel today, Jesus gives us a wonderful promise: “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places!” One interpretation of this saying is that the God’s house there is room for all. But since each of us is a unique creation of God, there will have to be a uniqueness in each persons search for an encounter with the Father. Or to put it in other terms, this promise acknowledges the diversity of the valid individual, spiritual searches for God.
In the same Gospel passage, after this wonderful announcement of a large welcome for all of us, the apostles are perplexed. They are not hearing the promise, but only that Jesus will soon leave them. It is for this reason he reassures Thomas and then Philip that he is going to prepare the way for them and then come back to lead them, and then he adds, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” And more particularly to Philip who thinks knowledge of the Father is sufficient, Jesus replies, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me.”
For many centuries the early Christians argued over the meaning of the nature of the union of Jesus with the Father. In the Nicene Creed that we profess at Mass, we accept the divinity of Jesus and his union with the Father with these words, “I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ… born of the Father before all ages… begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father…” Consubstantial – of one and the same substance, perfectly united.
And the three words that Jesus emphasizes today, the “way, truth and life,” which is echoed in the Wisdom tradition of the Scriptures. There we are taught that there is a way of living that will result in happiness, choosing either the way of the wise (or the way of truth) that leads to life, or the way of wickedness, which leads to death. By emphasizing that Jesus and the Father are ONE, we can understand a bit more easily how the way to the Father is through Jesus. By following the teachings of Jesus, “the way,” this will lead us to God and to happiness.
For us – men and women of faith – Jesus is our guide through the events of our life, and Jesus is our guide more than ever through the challenges of the pandemic that now envelopes us. Facts of our life that the world avoids or shuns as useless – suffering, pain, rejection, disability – become for us the very places where we grow strong in Christ, like the rejected stone that becomes the cornerstone of a new structure as St. Peter writes in the 2nd reading. We see the truth of this throughout the Acts of the Apostles also. Paul and Barnabas began their preaching among Jewish communities, but they were rejected. That rejection became a trigger or inspiration – the shove, or push they needed to a new direction in ministry – ministry to the Gentile, ad gentes!
Unlike so many around us today who wallow in misery when they do not get their way, or spend endless hours analyzing “what went wrong” or playing the victim card or shouting down others whose views do not agree with theirs – Paul and Barnabas could have sat and wondered, “What went wrong” but instead, as one direction in ministry closed to them, a new one came to life.
The Acts of the Apostles reads like a story on the surface filled with many failures and disappointments, but it really is a story of the Holy Spirit leading and expanding the Church. And reflecting on these events in the first century of the Church can – and will give us inspiration on how to live our life in Christ today.
In all of the difficult moments of our life, that is where grace is planted. Whether it is becoming redundant in the workplace or facing retirement, whether it is a sudden serious sickness or the death of a loved one, whether it is a setback or crisis in our family life, whether it is a stormy relationship or the end of a friendship, whether it is being cut off or placed at social distances, losing some freedoms, or trying to stay safe and healthy from a disease we cannot even see, the Holy Spirit is moving us from these obstacles to a new place. The Risen Lord – through the Spirit – is leading us on the way, the truth and the life.
A lesson I have learned through many years of ministry is that there are no meaningless lives, there are no meaningless acts. There are only people who refuse to give meaning to their lives, their acts, or better, who refuse to recognize the meaning God has given to them.
Our faith must be placed in the world in which God has placed us here and now, in that WORD spoken to our own circumstances, no matter how difficult they may seem to be. In his response to Philip’s request to see the Father, Christ urges us to look more deeply into whoever or whatever is right in front of us. THAT is where the Father in all of his goodness and power has chosen to be.
And that is where we come to discover THE WAY, THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE.
Celebrant: Baptized and chosen as a priestly people, let us come to our Father on behalf of all our brothers and sisters, praying through Christ, “the Way, the Truth and the Life.”.
READER: For all God’s chosen and consecrated people, that the Church may always offer prayerful and reverent worship, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For all national leaders, that they may recognize the service provided by the Church and so respect her rights and freedoms especially in times of crisis, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For all mothers throughout the world on this Mother’s Day, that God continue to bless them, grant them good health, and surround them in the joy and love of their families on this special day, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For those stumbling on their search for faith, that they may come to God through Jesus Christ, the only way to the Father, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READERS: For ourselves in this period of deep crisis and facing the pandemic around us, that as living stones in a spiritual house, we may work with the energy, courage and hope of the Holy Spirit, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: And for the intentions we carry in our hearts, and for all those who have asked for our prayers and for our faithful departed, especially our mothers and grandmothers who have gone before us marked with the sign of Christ’s peace, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
CELEBRANT: We thank you, Father most holy, for the wonders of your generous care. Show again your love for us as we call upon you, through Christ, our Lord. (all) AMEN.