5th Sunday of Easter, Year A.
Acts 6:1-7 – 1Peter 2:4-9 – John 14:1-12.
A troubled heart seems to be part and parcel of our human experience. No sooner have we taken care of one problem, than another comes along to take its place. Even when we are not facing any serious problems, we might well be anxious about what the future might hold for us. The cause of our troubled heart might be something that happened to us, or is happening now, or that will happen to us in the future. No matter whether these troubling experiences are in the past, present or future, Jesus says to you and me today, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God still, and trust in me.” Jesus calls us to freedom from anxiety.
The passage in John’s Gospel is part of the long discourse that Jesus had with His disciples before His betrayal by Judas Iscariot. Jesus was at the Last Supper with His disciples, who were already perturbed by the predictions of betrayal, of Jesus’ imminent departure from them, and of Peter’s denial (John 13:21-38). Jesus felt for them, and He wanted to strengthen their faith and trust in Him in order to prepare them for what He knew was going to happen. He told them why they should not be troubled in heart: all was not lost; rather, all was about to be won! This passage is especially relevant as we approach the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, after which Jesus would no longer be physically visible to His disciples and to the Church.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled”. The root verb of the expression ‘to be troubled’ literally means to be shaken or to be stirred up. Jesus experienced a troubled heart (Jn 11:33) when He was on His way to Jerusalem via Bethany to resurrect His friend Lazarus. Jesus was genuinely shaken by grief in that situation and His troubled Heart moved Him to tears. Speaking from that experience as He faced His own death, which was in the process of being plotted by the Jewish leadership, He did not want his friends to be troubled in heart or spirit.
How can we control our hearts and prevent them from becoming troubled? The answer here is to trust in Jesus. Jesus says, “Trust in God still, and trust in me”. What characterises this trust is its childlikeness; it’s not childishness but, rather, a childlike trust similar to that which we placed in our parents, a trust that no matter what the situation, our parents would be there for us. Jesus was reassuring His disciples that they could place that level of trust in Him without hesitation because of His unceasing care for them, both in the present (while He was still with them) and in the future (after He’d left them to return to the glory of heaven). Jesus assured them, “I am now going to prepare a place for you, and… I shall return to take you with me; so that where I am you may be too.” The key to our having untroubled hearts is to have complete trust that Jesus holds in the palm of His hand our being, our life and our future. To avoid having troubled hearts, we need to develop complete trust that Jesus is in charge and in control of our life and destiny. We can be confident that Jesus has His plans for us, that Jesus will not allow us to be lost because we are special to Him and are loved by Him, and that we are protected and guided by Him to the fulfilment of the hope of heaven. Troubles and challenges will always come to us, however, as they did to those early Christians in the 1st Reading; but, through His grace, we shall always be victorious. If we focus on Him, we shall always be shown the way forward. By placing our total trust – our childlike trust – in God, by fostering our vertical relationship with God and our horizontal communion with one another in Christ, we shall be victorious in overcoming the troubles of our times that (given the opportunity to do so) trouble our hearts.
Just as children will always go and ask their parents (and teachers) when things are unclear to them, so Jesus calls us to go and ask Him when things are causing us confusion, worry, uncertainty or anxiety. Replying to Thomas, He declared, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life”. He is the Way because He reveals the Father and He shows us the Father (John 12:45). As the Son of God, He alone gives us access to the Father (John 1:18), because He is One with the Father, He comes from the Father and He returns to the Father. He is the Truth because, when we come to know Him, He will set us free (John 8:32). He is the Life because anyone who places their belief in Him will have eternal life in Him (John 3:15). For us who belong to a chosen race … a consecrated nation, a people set apart to sing the praises of God, Jesus is the living stone on which the Church is built. He is the Way to salvation, He is the Truth about our being the children of God, and He is the source of Life eternal promised to us both in this life and in the life of the world to come.
And finally, a word to you yourself. When you are conscious of Jesus’ promises and remember who you are as a person created and called by God, then you can be confident that any obstacle you face, any trial in life, any distraction to faith and grace, can be managed by going to Him. When you believe that God made you, and that you are precious in the sight of God, the grace of God empowers you to perform great things in our world today, as did the early Christians in their time. You will be able to do, as Jesus said, the same works that He did Himself, and even greater works. So, believe in yourself and in the grace given to you to face up to the trials of life; there is a way forward or around every problem that assails you. When you are in Christ, there is no need to suffer trouble in your heart or your spirit. Amen. God bless you!