One of many things that changed during the COVID-19 pandemic is our vocabulary.  There are things that, previously, were not a part of our everyday language or conversations, like the word “essential:” essential services, essential employees, and essential businesses.  The term described the most important things, the basics needed to maintain order and provide stability.

Thanks so much for stopping by to read an alternate homily for a parish Mass for the FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER -MAY 7, 2023, (a different one will be posted as well) for sharing it on your social media posts and your feedback and comments…  I’m also grateful for all those who’ve asked for the audio version and share them as well at SOUNDCLOUD click HERE or from ITUNES as a podcast HERE.  May the Lord be glorified in your reading and sharing- Father Jim

Government officials justifiably found themselves in controversy over their determinations (and executive orders) about what was essential.  When it was hospitals, medical facilities, police, fire, and 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 to maintain the basics of day-to-day life; banks, hardware stores, laundromats – yeah, people can understand why those were included too…  But then, when it got to Car dealerships?  Liquor stores?  Dog groomers?  People started to get frustrated.  The dog was able to get a haircut, but human beings couldn’t?  Those appeared much more subjective, open to interpretation and debate.

As difficult a time as that was – that question, what is essential, is a question people continue to ask themselves.  In a time of economic uncertainty, and unemployment, people are looking at their finances and asking – what is essential, what can wait, what is a luxury.  Seeing, hearing, and experiencing friends and loved ones dealing with sickness, and some having passed away – it’s a sobering way of us looking at what we considered “problems” and difficulties with fresh eyes.   Hopefully, we will be more profoundly grateful for our health and safety, those we love, and the gift of life itself- these things are essential.

Although we’re still in the Easter Season, 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, predicting Judas’s betrayal and Peter’s denial.    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 only days later, something is unsettling and disquieting in the room.  Jesus is 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 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 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 also knows that his victory transcends all time and space – as 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 death, Jesus is speaking about our lives.  How to live them now, but more importantly, how to experience eternal life with Him. That 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?