Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino
Fifth Sunday of Easter: Seekers
Today's readings begin with the Twelve dealing with a problem. The problem was that they were being stretched thin. They had a responsibility to proclaim the Gospel to the ends of the world. This would take prayer and meditation on the events they had experienced in Jesus Christ and an intricate study on how these events were prophesied in the Hebrew Scriptures. But the Church had grown tremendously, wonderfully. With this growth came more and more people who needed special care. The reading mentions the widows of of the Hellenistic, non-Jews, who were not receiving the daily distribution of food. Perhaps someone needed to organize a way to get food to the Greek areas of the city. And someone needed to take care of the Samaritans, and the Egyptians, the Syrians, etc etc. It was a great problem to have, but it was still a problem. The Twelve needed to devote themselves to prayer and preaching. So they created a new ministry, a ministry of people from the various groups who needed help and entrusted them with the charitable outreach of the Church. These were the first deacons. You will notice Stephen, the first martyr mentioned, as well as a Philip different than the Apostle Philip presented in today's Gospel.
By the way, the first reading also states that even a large group of priests was becoming obedient to the faith. This refers to the Temple priests, although you and I hope that all priests are only concerned with being men of faith. Priests as we know them in the Church are extensions of the Bishops' ministries.
There is another group of priests presented in today's readings. That group consists in all the faithful. In the second reading from the First Letter of Peter, we heard that all who are committed to Christ are de facto priests. The first Pope proclaims, "You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you might announce the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light."
The work of religion is not limited to the ordained. It is the work of all Christians. You embrace this work every time you reach out to others, calling them to join you in worship. You embrace this work when you instruct your children on the truths of the faith, every time you say to them or to anyone, "This is what we must do to be followers of Jesus Christ." The way we live our lives, then, is not imposed on us. It flows from within us, from our own determination to live the life of Christ.
Therefore, Jesus says to Thomas and to us, "I am the way, the truth and the life." Thomas and the Apostle Philip are seekers. They want God in their lives. So do we. We seek, and we find. Our search for God frees us from the shackles of a materialistic society. Our union with Christ frees us to embrace the wonders of a life without limits, the awesome gift of eternity.
Like the Twelve in the first reading, we also have to be careful that we are not stretched thin. We need to make time for prayer and the study of the Word so we can be the priests we are called to be. We need to make a prayer schedule, and we need to keep it. If we do not, then we will find ourselves doing a lot but accomplishing nothing.
“In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places,” the Gospel begins. There is a room with your name on it and a room with my name on it. Those rooms are there, waiting for us to move in. Jesus prepared these rooms for us. May we prepare ourselves for Him.