John 14:1 – 12

This Sunday, we hear a portion of Jesus’ address to the apostles during the Last Supper as presented in John’s Gospel.  In this Gospel, it is presented as our Lord’s farewell discourse to his disciples in anticipation of his death.  Most scripture scholars consider this section (chapters 14 – 18) to be a Johannine composition, modeled on farewell discourses found in contemporary Greek and Hebrew literature.  You will notice that the only action in John’s account of the Last Supper is the washing of the feet and the dismissal of Judas.  As you will read in the footnote, the discourse actually begins with 13:31.  Let’s read from there to get the complete context; you see how it leads to Jesus reassuring everyone after admonishing Peter.


1Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.


Do not let your hearts be troubled: Understandably, the apostles are troubled by the prospect of Jesus’ departure.  This section is a dialogue marked off by a literary inclusion in John 14:1,27: “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”  It’s important to remember that Jesus never really left heaven when he came to earth (cf. 3:13).


You have faith: could also be imperative: “Have faith.”  


2 In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?


House:  let’s look at Jn 2:13 – 22 and 1 Cor. 3:10 – 17; clearly, Jesus is speaking of the house as the dwelling place of God and was identifying himself with that dwelling and, therefore, with God.


many dwelling places: It’s easy to think in terms of a house with many rooms when we hear Jesus speak of many dwelling places.  But, if you connect the notion of Jesus as being in the Father and the Father dwelling in him – and that he is the “way” to the Father, as we will hear in a moment, then we see that Jesus is telling the disciples – and us – that he is the way for them – and us – to dwell in the Father just as he does.  This is such a powerful message; one we need to hear and reflect on regularly.


3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.


Come back again: a rare Johannine reference to the parousia; cf 1 John 2:28.  


4 Where (I) am going you know the way.”


The way:  this refers to Jesus himself; it is such an important concept that it becomes a designation of Christianity in Acts 9:2; 19:9,23; 22:4; 24:14,22.  


5 Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?”

6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.


The truth: in John, the divinely revealed reality of the Father manifested in the person and works of Jesus. The possession of truth confers knowledge and liberation from sin (John 8:32).  


No one comes to the Father except through me: again, we hear a reference to the Parousia, when Jesus will return to draw the faithful back to the Father.


7 If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”


If you know me, then you will also know my Father: Clearly, Jesus identifies himself with the Father; after all, he declares, “the Father and I are one.”


8 Philip said to him, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.”


Show us the Father: Philip seems to be asking for a theophany like Exodus 24:9-10; 33:18-23.  


9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?


No one comes to the Father except through me:  This is another clear identification of Jesus with the Father.


10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.

11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves.

12 Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.


will do greater ones than these:  It’s important to reflect on this assertion.  How can anyone do greater work than what Jesus accomplished in his death and resurrection – overcoming Satan and opening the gates of heaven?  But, let’s look at Lk 17:6 and Mt 17:20.  We are called to continue the work that Jesus started, enlarging the effect of his work; that’s what “greater” means. 


The gospel account assures us – as Jesus assured his disciples – that Jesus, who is God, leads us to the Father’s house.  As long as we remain strong in our faith and close to Jesus, we have no reason to be troubled.



Acts 6: 1 – 7


Here, we hear the first account of rife within the early Christian community. It’s very interesting.  According to some scripture scholars, the real purpose of the account is to introduce Stephen. But, it also demonstrates how the early Christians resolved internal struggles and put into practice what Jesus had called his followers to do; by having faith in him, they were able to do greater works. 


The issue itself was actually quite simple and straightforward: the community had grown so much that the established leadership couldn’t respond to all the needs of the faithful and one faction was not being attended as well as another.  The Greek speaking widows were not getting the daily help they needed while the Aramaic speaking ones were apparently well served.


1 At that time, as the number of disciples continued to grow, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.


The Hellenists . . . the Hebrews: the Hellenists were not necessarily Jews from the diaspora, but were more probably Palestinian Jews who spoke only Greek. The Hebrews were Palestinian Jews who spoke Hebrew or Aramaic and who may also have spoken Greek. Both groups belong to the Jerusalem Jewish Christian community. The conflict between them leads to a restructuring of the community that will better serve the community’s needs. 


2 So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table.


the word of God: The essential function of the Twelve is the “service of the word,” including development of the kerygma by formulation of the teachings of Jesus.


To serve at table: as you will read in the footnote, some commentators think that it is not the serving of food that is described here but rather the keeping of the accounts that recorded the distribution of food to the needy members of the community. In any case, after Stephen and the others are chosen, they are never presented carrying out the task for which they were appointed (Acts 6:2-3). Rather, two of their number, Stephen and Philip, are later presented as preachers of the Christian message. They, the Hellenist counterpart of the Twelve, are active in the ministry of the word.


3 Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task,


select from among you seven reputable men… whom we shall appoint to this task:  from the time of the early Church, the leaders relied on the people to identify people from the faithful to be appointed for specific tasks.  This practice has been re-introduced through Vatican II.


4 whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

5 The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the holy Spirit, also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism.

6 They presented these men to the apostles who prayed and laid hands on them.


They . . . laid hands on them: the customary Jewish way of designating persons for a task and invoking upon them the divine blessing and power to perform it.  



7 The word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly; even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith.


large group of priests: The summary on the progress of the Jerusalem community is illustrated by the conversion of the priests, members of the Jewish elite associated with the Temple.



1 Peter 2:4 – 9


We hear again from Peter’s first letter to the Christian communities in the provinces of Asia Minor..


4 Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God,


a living stone: Christ is the cornerstone (cf Isaiah 28:16) that is the foundation of the spiritual edifice of the Christian community (1 Peter 2:5). To unbelievers, Christ is an obstacle and a stumbling block on which they are destined to fall (1 Peter 2:8); cf Romans 11:9, 14:13, 20; 1 Cor 1:23, 8:9; Gal 5:11; Rev 2:14 – σκανδαλον .  


5 and, like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.


6 For it says in scripture: “Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion, a cornerstone, chosen and precious, and whoever believes in it shall not be put to shame.”

7 Therefore, its value is for you who have faith, but for those without faith: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and

8 “A stone that will make people stumble, and a rock that will make them fall.” They stumble by disobeying the word, as is their destiny.

9 But you are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises” of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.


chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own: As you will read in the footnotes, the prerogatives of ancient Israel mentioned here are now more fully and fittingly applied to the Christian people: “a chosen race” (cf Isaiah 43:20-21) indicates their divine election (Eph 1:4-6); “a royal priesthood” (cf Exodus 19:6) to serve and worship God in Christ, thus continuing the priestly functions of his life, passion, and resurrection; “a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6) reserved for God, a people he claims for his own (cf. Malachi 3:17) in virtue of their baptism into his death and resurrection. This transcends all natural and national divisions and unites the people into one community to glorify the one who led them from the darkness of paganism to the light of faith in Christ. From being “no people” deprived of all mercy, they have become the very people of God, the chosen recipients of his mercy (cf. Hosea 1:9; 2:23).


In all three readings this weekend, we hear that our faith leads us to action, and specifically to service toward others.  As Jesus instructed his disciples and the early followers of Christ came to understand very quickly, we recognize that “faith without works is empty,” as we hear proclaimed so powerfully in James 2:18-26.  As we continue through the Easter season, we begin to unfold the consequences of our Lord’s resurrection.  His promise of new life is, indeed, lived out in our sharing it with those around us.