5th Sunday of Easter – May 10, 2020
For all that the lies at the heart of today’s celebration of the Fifth Sunday of Easter, most of us associate this weekend – and even this Mass – on Mother’s Day. And so we should. Beyond the sentimentality and especially the commercialism of this world-wide commemoration, there really does lie a deeper religious reality to the celebration of Mother’s Day, a reality that is clearly in focus in today’s gospel.
The gospel passage that was just proclaimed is taken from Saint John’s account of the final night of Jesus’ life, quite specifically from Jesus’ last supper discourse. The words we hear are those that Jesus shared with his disciples after he had washed their feet in a gesture of service and love and in the context of the Passover meal during which he would celebrate the Eucharist and give them his body and blood for their life and salvation.
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” … These words which lie at the heart of Jesus’ message to his closest followers – and to you and me – hours before he died, are foundational for understanding what it means to be an authentic disciple. Jesus is indeed the way to the Father for all who seek life and salvation. And that way is best understood through other words that Jesus shares in this same conversation. “Whoever believes in me will do the works that I do.”
“What does this mean for us?” Pope Francis asked in his own reflections upon this gospel passage. It means that the example of Jesus “is my, your, our path. … Following Jesus means learning how to go beyond ourselves to reach out to others – to go to the outskirts of existence – to be the first to move towards our brothers and sisters, especially those who are most distant, those who are forgotten, those who are most in need of understanding, consolation and help.”
To do the work of Jesus, we’re all called to embrace his example of selfless love and service as he washed the feet of his disciples. We’re all challenged to assume the work of humble servanthood that places the hurts and pains of others before our own – the work of charity that does not measure the cost – and the work of love that transcends limits and conditions. … That’s the heart of today’s gospel message – to love selflessly and so embrace the way of Jesus – to serve generously and do the work that he has taught us to do.
Years ago, someone shared with me a reflection entitled “God’s first face.” I think you’ll see the connection between the lesson of the gospel and what we celebrate today throughout our land.
In the beginning, the first person most likely to have shown us our first picture of God was our mother. For her child, Mom is God – the source of life and goodness, from which all good things come. … For example, when you got into trouble – broke the neighbor’s window, dented the car, wound up with a less than stellar report card – who did you tell first? Mom or Dad? Usually Mom. Moms are famous for cutting slack – something we call grace. And what is grace – but God’s gift – something we don’t earn. In a mother’s love, God reveals his gift of grace.
When you got sick, Mom kept vigil. You could bang yourself up doing something crazy and Mom was there with band-aides and hugs. You could throw up all over her, but all she cared about was that you were OK. In a mother’s love, God’s healing is made real for us.
Who proudly displayed your masterpieces on the refrigerator door? Who framed your handmade cared? Who was convinced that you were prettier, more handsome than any movie star? In a mother’s love, God shows us that we are all his dear children.
For mother’s food is compulsion. It begins with nursing a new born and doesn’t end until she’s fixed her last pot roast for her children’s children. Mom is always concerned that we have enough of everything we need. In a mother’s love, we realize how richly God has blessed creation.
Regardless of how badly we messed up things, despite our failures and disappointments, a mother’s love is constant and unconditional. You’re her child and that’s all that matters. In a mother’s love, we come to know the unconditional, limitless love of God.
And Jesus says, “Whoever believes in me will do the works that I do. … I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Amen!