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A people of the Way, of Truth and of Life

May 18, 2014

A reflection for the 5th Sunday in Easter, Year A. The readings are Acts 6:1-7; Psalm: 33; 1 Peter 2:4-9 and John 14:1-12.

Many of you know that I work for Salt + Light TV. I make documentaries, videos and TV programs to help people connect with the Catholic Faith. Sometimes our work takes us to different cities or countries and when we travel, we often have to hire someone who we call a “fixer” – that’s what they call them in the industry. The fixer is a local person, someone who speaks the language, knows the customs and knows the industry, who helps us with all logistics: transportation, directions, translations and local bureaucracy so that we don’t have to worry about knowing where we’re going or parking or having to pay this person or that person for permission to film somewhere. I love having a fixer, because the fixer shows us the way. And when we travel somewhere where we don’t have a fixer, mostly in North America, I’ll do as much research as possible. We get maps, we do street view on Google maps, we find out where the nearest hospital is, where parking is, where we can eat – if in Canada, where the nearest Tim Horton’s is (all the necessities of life). I need to know as much as possible about where I am going. That’s why I don’t like GPSs. A GPS tells you where you are right now and what the next turn is, but I like to see the whole map. I like to know where I am coming from and where I am going and what all the options are. Maybe some of you are like me. So, you can relate very well to Thomas – realistic and practical Thomas, who won’t believe unless he sees the marks of the nails – who wants to know the details of this journey. “How do we get there if we don’t know the way? Where’s the map? Show us the way!”

And if you are like me, you would also be frustrated by Jesus’ answer: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” (John 14:6). That’s not telling me how to get there. Where’s the map?! But Jesus does give us the map: “Have you been with me all this time and still you do not know me?” (John 14:9) The clue to the way, is in the other two words that Jesus uses to describe himself: The Truth and the Life. The way is not directions to a particular physical destination; the way is a way of life. In fact, before Christians were called Christians, they were called followers of The Way.

Another clue to “the Way” is found in today’s first reading. I’m a deacon so I love this reading from the Book of Acts. That’s because the Greek word that is used for “serve at the table” in the original text is “Diakonia”. That’s where the word “deacon” comes from. Remember 3 weeks ago we spoke about a quality of the early Christian community, “koinonia” or fellowship. Well, here’s another quality: “diakonia”, service. And these first seven deacons were appointed to this task of distributing the food and to take special care of the Greek-speaking widows. They were the marginalised people of the day. If you thought the early Church was perfect and all koinonia, this reading tells us that they had difficulties including everyone, some people were being left out! So part of the Way is the way of service and especially, service to the marginalized. Who are the Greek-speaking widows of today? How are we serving them?

What’s interesting is that after these seven men are “ordained” we never hear of them doing the task that they were appointed to do. Instead we hear Stephen as a preacher. He gives the longest sermon in the Book of Acts, for which he is stoned to death. (Acts 7. He wasn’t stoned to death because he was a bad preacher. Deacons are great preachers!) St. Stephen, the first martyr was a great evangelist. (People just didn’t want to hear the truth.) And Philip was a great teacher. He explains the Good News to the Ethiopian court official and then baptizes him (Acts 8:26-40). So the Way is not just the way of service, but also pointing the way: teaching, preaching, bringing the Good News to people and bringing people to Christ. And sometimes we are killed because of it.

The way is also the way of Truth. This one is easy because we know that Jesus Christ is the Truth. The second reading today doesn’t tell us what the Truth is, but tells us how to use the Truth. The Truth is not just something we learn or we teach: We must hold on to the Truth. Jesus Christ is the Truth that is our Corner Stone. We are living stones that are used to build a spiritual house, but the house won’t stand unless we are rooted in the Truth. Unless we are grounded in, standing firm on that corner stone that is Jesus Christ, the Truth, the house won’t stand. And that means that the Truth is not relative. It is not subjective. It’s not that I have my truth and you have your truth. Truth is always absolute and objective. If it wasn’t, God would not be Truth. This is one of the biggest problems of our day. People want everything to be anything they want: Marriage is anything we want it to be; gender is anything we want it to be; life begins and ends whenever we feel like it should, a person can be whatever we think is a person, be it an animal or a corporation, and if we don’t think a certain human being is a person then it isn’t. But that’s not how it works. God created the world to be ruled by laws; laws of physics and laws of mathematics – those are absolute. So is moral law. And this is not just me saying it. Reason tells me. Catholicism has always been a religion of reason, rooted in philosophy. Theology was defined by St. Anselm as “faith seeking understanding.” Faith and reason always agree. Reason tells us that Truth is absolute and Jesus Christ tells us that He is that Truth. We must stand firm on that corner stone of Truth, or the building won’t stand.

So we live the way of service and we also point the way to others and we stay rooted in the Truth. That means we are a people of service and a people of Truth. Lastly, we are a people of Life. Everything we do has to be life-giving. We must always support and defend life; all life. This is what’s troubling about the statement made by the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada a week and a half ago. We cannot be followers of Jesus Christ unless we are 100% prolife. And it’s not just life in the womb. We are for all life: We are pro babies, pro mothers, pro elderly and pro people with disabilities. We are pro refugees, pro Greek-speaking widows and orphans – and for everything that is life-giving: We are pro justice, we are pro compassion, pro fertility, pro ecology, pro chastity – we are pro Truth. We cannot be followers of Christ unless we are prolife, because Jesus is Life.

If you are Catholic, the Catholic Church has been unequivocal about abortion. Life is given by God and it begins at conception. And this is not some religious belief rooted in superstition; reason tells us that life begins at conception because life does not begin incrementally and genetics shows that from the moment of conception a human being is a unique individual with his or her unique DNA, separate from the mother. This may be a difficult thing to hear, but I must speak the Truth (I may be stoned for it): Someone who believes abortion should be available on demand to all those who choose it is not a Christian. And if a particular political party or organization excludes people who are prolife and one cannot be a Christian unless one is prolife, then this particular organization is excluding all Christians. That is a problem.

Still, we must always choose the way of service, the way of Truth and the way of life. That means that if we find ourselves on our self-righteous prolife high-horse having a discussion with someone who is pro-abortion, we must do so in a way that is life-giving; never judgmental, always with compassion, kindness and love. We must always build up; never tear down. Always build up. That’s what it means to be a people of life. That’s what is means to be Living Stones.

Being a people of the Way, a people of Truth and a people of life is not easy. That’s what got St. Stephen stoned to death. And it may not be easy to understand how to follow the Way; the apostles (at least Thomas and Philip) didn’t. But Jesus says, “do not let your hearts be troubled, have faith in God and have faith in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s House.” That’s for all of us. All of us are included. We are not alone. Jesus doesn’t just show us the way, or teach us the truth or give us life; He Himself is The Way, He is The Truth; He is The Life. And when we gather together to receive Him in the Word and in the Eucharist, we are receiving His Way, His Truth and His very life.

Let’s pray, as we come to receive Him in the Eucharist that He transforms us into living stones: A people of the Way, a people of Truth and a people of Life.

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