The Acts of the Apostles 6:1-7

The First Letter of Peter 2:4-9

John 14:1-12

I can never read this gospel passage without being reminded of a lad I ministered to many years ago. He was a leukemia patient in the days when the disease was a death sentence. His dear parents would not allow talk of death around their son. They hushed him whenever he broached the subject. He came down to breakfast one morning while he was at home on a break from the hospital and spoke to his mother about a dream he had had the night before.
“Jesus talked to me in my sleep last night,” he said.
“Really?” said his mother, “What did he say to you?”
“Jesus told me he is building me a house and it is nearly finished.” The boy died two weeks later.
It amazes me that we can hear certain pericopes from the gospels proclaimed and not gasp. This Sunday’s is one of those. I don’t remember ever seeing someone poke a person next to him/her and ask, “Did you hear what I heard? Can you believe that?”
Take the response that Jesus gives to Philip’s request that he show the disciples the Father: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” It seems obvious because we believe that Jesus and the Father are one. Jesus’ works are the Father’s works. By their works you will know them, we say. But what happens if we take the words one step farther and apply them to our baptismal relationship with Jesus. We are baptized into Christ. We are one with Christ. Christ lives in us as we live in Christ. I have even heard it said that God has the same love for us that God has for Christ. Amazing, isn’t it? But imagine the implications.
Here’s where the gasp of recognition should come. If I read the text correctly, if I am correct about our union with Christ (to say nothing of the fact that humankind are made in the image and likeness of God) if baptism does what the Church professes that it does, how does the reality strike you that you might be the only Jesus some people will ever meet? If Jesus says to Philip, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father,” does Jesus not want us, as his disciples, to live the reality of our baptismal priesthood and be able to say, “those who have seen me have seen Jesus?”
Again, by their works you shall know them. The letters on the plastic bracelets may have become a cliché, but the fact is, asking one’s self regularly, What would Jesus do is not such a bad idea. Why? Because the answer invariably will be, Whatever love demands. The other day I read a biography of Dorothy Day. What an amazing woman! A convert to the Church, she got the implications of her baptism and the course was set for the rest of her life. She believed that Catholics needed to be people of prayer, that we needed the rituals of our faith, i.e., Mass and the other Sacraments. And we needed to be a people who loved one another. A couple of quotes: “We cannot live alone. We cannot go to Heaven alone. Otherwise, as Peguy said, God will say to us, ‘Where are the others?’” When asked what members of her movement, the Catholic Worker, are working for, she replied that they must work for a new heaven and a new earth, “wherein justice dwelleth.” Why was she not content to wait for heaven to bring justice to people who have been wronged? Another quote: “We believe in the brotherhood of man and the Fatherhood of God. This teaching, the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ, involves today the issue of unions (where men call each other brothers); it involves the racial question; it involves cooperatives, credit unions, crafts; it involves Houses of Hospitality and Farming Communes. It is with all these means that we can live as though we believed indeed that we are all members of one another, knowing that ‘when the health of one member suffers, the health of the whole body is lowered.’” In addition to urging the disciplines of regular Mass attendance, she taught her readers to “practice the presence of God” by seeing God in one another. He said that when two or three are gathered together, there He is in the midst of them. He is with us in our kitchens, at our tables, on our breadlines, with our visitors, on our farms.” And she got into serious trouble with the authorities by her uncompromising stance of pacifism. In some ways it should seem obvious, shouldn’t it? If we believe in the Mystical Body of Christ, how can we drop bombs on that Body? Or shoot at it? Or engage in the other horrendous things that going to war unleashes. Dorothy Day spent time in jail because of her stance.
In Dorothy Day’s vision, who is the actor and who is the one ministered to? Jesus. Think of the words of judgment near the end of Matthew’s Gospel: I was hungry and you fed me. I was naked and you clothed me. I was in prison and you visited me. And you know the rest. If we take those words of Jesus seriously, see the demands our faith makes on us. And see what sense Dorothy Day makes.
Didymus says to the Lord in the Gospel today, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” And what is the answer? “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus is the answer and what Jesus would do ought to be what those who believe in Jesus do. As daunting as the task must seem, the challenge Jesus gives is for those who believe in him to be able to say as a result of the works they do, Those who see me, see Jesus. And of course doing those works may make you vulnerable and you just might wind up the way Jesus did, misunderstood, on the cross, with God as your sole support. All this, and union with God here and here after.
My young friend told his mother that Jesus was building him a house that was nearly finished. I believe that he came to realize as he entered that house, that he, himself, had built the house in union with Jesus through his acceptance of the Cross and through his unwavering confidence in the one in whom he had been baptized.

1 comment so far

  1. Jim Forest on

    I benefited from your comments, Didymus.

    It may have been my biography of Dorothy Day that you read. I wonder? But what prompts me to respond is your comment re our being made in the image and likeness of God, one of the most extraordinary phrases in the Bible. In this regard you might enjoy a short piece of mine on the original oneness of Adam & Eve:

    Jim Forest

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