Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 10, 2020 – Year A
Readings: Acts 6:1-7 / Ps 33 / 1 Pt 2:4-9 / Jn 14:1-12
by Rev. Mr. Eddie Craig, Permanent Deacon
Once there was a young couple who decided, for their first anniversary, that they would take a camping trip to Disneyworld. At this time the husband was working long hours at his job, so it fell to the wife to do most of the preparation. But lucky for this husband, his was a very industrious, hard-working wife.
She planned everything out: She planned where they would stop. She planned the menu. She even went as far as chopping all the things that were going to go in the meals for the week, so that it would require less time to prepare.
As the time for their trip came about, they borrowed an RV from a family member, loaded it up, and headed off down the road. Everything started out pretty well, but after they stopped and got gas for the first time, something happened to the RV: It started running rough. And as they traveled south, it got worse and worse, until eventually the RV would not go over thirty-five miles per hour. They were stuck: putting along down the interstate, trying to get where they were going.
Finally they stopped for the night and made another discovery: Somewhere during the trip that day, the refrigerator had failed, and all the food had gone bad. So they had to abandon their plans. They had to try to make the best of their trip despite the fact that nothing went as they had planned.
I’m sure a lot of you can relate to that. These past few weeks have been difficult. There have been a lot of plans that have been completely thrown aside. There have been plans for graduation parties that are not now going to happen. People have lost their jobs, or their hours have been cut back, and they’re struggling to make ends meet. There’s been sickness, there’s been death, and a lot of uncertainty.
So it’s easy to relate to what Thomas says in the gospel today: “Master, we do not know where You are going. How can we know?” How can we know what to do when everything seems to be changing from day to day?
The first line of this gospel can sometimes, during times like this, seem hard to grasp. Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in Me.”
In times of trouble, sometimes we fall back into thinking that Jesus is just referring to heaven, referring to the time that is coming, to the kingdom that we hope to celebrate in eternity, at the wedding feast of the Lamb. But we can forget that this kingdom is supposed to be being built right now: right here, wherever we are, in what we’re doing.
If we truly are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, then it falls to us to do our part to build this kingdom. But how do we do that? When times are difficult, and it seems like nothing is going well, what do we do?
As Catholics, we often look to the saints as an example. One saint in particular comes to mind. This saint was an aristocrat, and he had big plans and big dreams. His plan was to become a famous soldier and to win glory on the battlefield. However, in his very first battle, he was injured to the point where he could not fight ever again. So all of his plans were thrown out the door, and his life was put into disarray.
But he spent this time reading, studying, and trying to come to terms with it. The saint was Saint Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. He came up with the concept of “holy detachment,” which can sound weird at first, because when we think of detachment, we think of the normal detachment of this world. But that form of detachment stems from selfishness. That form of detachment comes about when our attention turns inward, when our focus becomes ourselves, and it’s so easy to do in times of trouble, when all the news seems to be bad.
Detachment can also be holy. Holy detachment comes about when our focus turns outward, when we surrender to God’s will, in St. Ignatius’s terms: when we become happy and content whether we’re sick or healthy, rich or poor, times of plenty, or times of want. Because when our focus turns outward, we focus less on how we feel, and we focus more on the task at hand.
At times like these, we have to remember the words of Jesus, when Jesus reminds us that He is the way, the truth, and the life. Our lives as Christians are a journey to become more like Jesus; to become more configured to Him; to look to Him as an example and as a guide how we should conduct our lives.
We need to first order our lives around God. God should be our primary focus. Our second focus should be our neighbor, because when we love God and we love neighbor, we are truly on the right path. It’s much easier to embrace holy detachment: to accept things as they are and ask yourself, What can I do?
Sometimes this is hard, but it’s well worth it, because our ultimate goal in this life is to become saints. On this day is the feast, were it not Sunday, of Saint Damien of Molokai, who gave up everything and spent his life in a leper colony, happily helping wherever he could.
This morning I ask Saint Damien of Molokai to pray for us.