During this time of viral pandemic, quarantine, stay at home orders – one of the things that has changed is our vocabulary. There’s a bunch of things that, previously, were not really a part of our every day language or conversations, like the word “essential:” essential services, essential employees, essential businesses.  The term is meant to describe what the most important things are, the very basics that we need to maintain order, to provide stability… to survive?

Hi everyone here’s my homily for FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER – MAY 6, 2020. During this time of public Masses being suspended, I invite you to pray with us as we pray for you on our FACEBOOK PAGE cick here Thanks so much for stopping by to read this and even more for sharing it on your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and everywhere else people share social media posts and your feedback and comments! For the audio version you can get them at SOUNDCLOUD click HERE or from ITUNES as a podcast HERE. Thanks again – HAPPY EASTER! I hope you and yours experience all of God’s blessings today and always! In Christ – Father Jim

Government officials have, justifiably, found themselves in controversy over their determinations (and executive orders) about what, exactly, IS essential.  When it was hospitals, medical facilities, police, fire, rescue services – people understood – obviously they needed to be open; grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations, too – of course, people needed to get to those things just in order to maintain the basics of day to day life; banks, hardware stores, laundromats  – yeah, people can understand why those would be included too…  Car dealerships?  Uh… Liquor stores? Wait a minute…. Dog groomers? So the dog can get a haircut, but we can’t?  Those appear much more subjective, open to interpretation and debate, and have caused just a bit of frustration.

As difficult a time as this has been – and continues to be – putting that aside, the noise, the incomprehensible, the ridiculous decisions – What is essential is something that people are finding themselves asking as well.  In a time of economic uncertainty, unemployment, people are looking at their finances and asking – what is essential, what can wait, what is a luxury… Seeing, hearing, experiencing friends and loved ones dealing with sickness – it’s a sobering way of us looking at what we considered “problems” and difficulties with fresh eyes and hopefully have a deeper gratitude for our health and safety and the health and safety of those we love – definitely these things are essential.

            What about the question of life itself? You can already see people running to their mouses and screens getting ready to turn this live-stream off (one of many drawbacks to being limited to celebrating Mass online)… don’t want to think about this… not today… not ever…  But we really don’t have a choice. It’s the great question that philosophers and theologians ponder on a good day and the rest of the world tries to ignore – that as self-aware beings, we know that at some point we are going to die. We might lie to ourselves thinking it’s never going to happen. We might fill our lives with things, and activities, and noise, and people, we’ve found all sorts of ways to distract or numb ourselves not to be disturbed by that reality in the day to day, ordinary, routine of life.  But during a viral pandemic where a lot of those things have been deemed non-essential (except alcohol… remember that, the Government thinks liquor and marijuana dispensaries are essential), where we hear and see news that keeps speaking of “death” – how many people have died, where in the world it’s worse than in other places -it’s hard to avoid that difficult question.

Which is what the disciples were dealing with in this Gospel. Despite the fact that we’re still in the Easter Season, still celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus Christ being risen from the dead, the Church gives us this reading that places us back into the Upper Room, on Holy Thursday Night, at the Last Supper. It’s a tense atmosphere… It’s a room filled with fear, worry and anxiety. He’s stunned them by washing their feet, He’s predicted the betrayal by Judas and denial by Peter.    Not far from their memories was Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead… crowds had heard of what Jesus had done and cheered His entrance on Palm Sunday, and now days later, there’s something unsettling and disquieting in the room.  Jesus speaking of his death…  Jesus also knew that despite all that he had said and done… after all the signs that pointed to His being more than a teacher, more than a philosopher, more than the expectations that had ever envisioned of Him as a King, as the Messiah…. whatever certitude they thought they had about who Jesus was, it was going to be tested, and sadly, the vast majority of them would fail.

Remarkably though, knowing all of this, Jesus speaks words that are meant to quell their immediate fears – but even more, reverberate thousands of years later: Do not let your hearts be troubled, He begins. There’s an immediacy about that, where we hear him casting out the fear of that moment.  But knowing that believers would still have to contend with the battle between life and death that began in the Garden of Eden, would still be waged in our day and time, Jesus knows that his victory transcends all time and space – and so do his words. Do not let your hearts be troubled.

That’s more than just trying to be comforting, or consoling.

That’s more than just wishful thinking.

Or rather, I should say, they can be more than comforting, consoling, more than just wishful thinking if we take to heart the rest of what Jesus says:

I am the way, the truth and the life. What exactly does that mean?

I am the way – Jesus is telling us to follow Him

I am the truth – He alone holds the secrets behind the workings of the whole universe, the yearnings of the human heart

I am the life – The one who raised Lazarus from the dead, the one who Himself would rise from the dead and never die again – He gives life to those deepest longings that we hold that we can’t even articulate… His light dispels every kind of darkness

In the face of His own death, Jesus is speaking about our lives. How to live them now – How to experience eternal life with Him. That was what was and is His mission for all humanity, to come to know and love Him and experience the eternal, loving embrace of our Heavenly Father.

Could there be anything more essential?