UNTROUBLING OUR HEARTS – Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year A

May 7, 2023

Revised Common Lectionary
Acts 7:55-60
Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16
1 Peter 2:2-10
John 14:1-14

Lectionary for Mass (RC)
Acts 6:1-7
Psalm 33:1-2, 4-5, 18-19 (22)
1 Peter 2:4-9
John 14:1-12

“Do not let your hearts be troubled” (Jn 14:1), Jesus tells his disciples as he bids them farewell.

The words that Jesus speaks to the disciples are meant for us too. Yet there is so much that troubles us, so much to worry about. We have anxieties about personal issues, including health, finances, relationships, the well-being of loved ones, job-related problems, and more. We harbor concerns for our communities, for people who suffer injustice, for the future of the planet, and for nations at war. Amid all these anxieties, Jesus encourages us: “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

The disciples gathered with Jesus that night surely felt the sadness that permeates this entire section of John’s Gospel. Still, they had no idea just how troubled they were about to be. In less than twenty-four hours, all their expectations would be dashed by the brutal public execution of their leader.

Yet as he enters into his “hour,” which in John’s Gospel means being lifted up on the cross, Jesus offers words of consolation. He is going away to prepare a place: “[I] will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, you may be also” (Jn 14:3). Because they know Jesus, they already know God: “I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (Jn 14:10). They have lived and walked with the one whom John identifies at the outset of his Gospel as the Word who from the beginning “was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn 1:1).

The questions we hear today from Thomas and Philip reveal just how little the disciples understood: “How can we know the way?” (Jn 14:6) “Lord, show us the Father” (Jn 14:8). Cluelessness, however, will not have the last word in the story of Jesus and his disciples. After the resurrection, they will experience his presence in their midst even as he ascends to the Father. His words of reassurance will take on real meaning for them only after he has been raised from the dead. Filled with the Spirit, those clueless, troubled followers will become bold witnesses to the new life that God has revealed in the resurrection of Jesus.

Today’s reading from the First Letter of Peter also offers words of reassurance. This message of encouragement is addressed to communities composed primarily of women and enslaved persons who are experiencing rejection and persecution. The author invites these baptized believers to see themselves not as society views them, but as people who have been transformed in the image of Christ. They have the example of Jesus, a “living stone, though rejected by mortals, yet chosen and precious in God’s sight” (1 Pt 2:4).

Like him, they are “living stones” who are “built into a spiritual house” (1 Pt 2:5). In the midst of their struggles, they can take heart that God has gathered them and formed them into “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people” (1 Pt 2:9). Society may regard them as nobodies, but in the risen Christ they have been chosen to be God’s very own people.

During this Easter season, as we continue to celebrate the rising of Jesus and to reflect on its meaning for us who have been baptized into Christ, today’s Scripture readings offer fresh words of encouragement. Even though we face uncertainty and grieve over the deaths of loved ones; even though gun violence continues unabated, unarmed Black men are killed or attacked, the rights of women and transgender people are threatened, and immigrants are reviled and mistreated: today we hear the message of Jesus to let go of our anxiety.

These words were spoken by one who knew that his own death was imminent and that his followers would be plunged into deep grief and sadness. As we face pain and struggle, Jesus remains with us at every moment. He invites us to rest in the assurance that he is “the way and the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6). We are intimately bound to him and to one another—a structure built of living stones with Christ himself as the cornerstone.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled” (Jn 14:1).

A Hymn for Today: “You Are the Way”

This text is an updated version of “Thou Art the Way,” written in 1824 by U.S. Episcopal Bishop George Washington Doane. The words are based on John 14:6, a well-known saying of Jesus quoted in today’s Gospel reading. The hymn is addressed to Christ in the first three stanzas, acknowledging him as the way, the truth, and the life. It concludes with a stanza in which the community prays to know that way, to keep that truth, and to win that life.

Doane’s hymn has appeared in nearly 600 hymnals in the United States and elsewhere in the English-speaking world and has been paired with various tunes. You may listen to recordings of the text set to a seventeenth century English tune, ST. JAMES (Courteville), and to SHANTI, a contemporary melody by American composer Marty Haugen.

You are the Way; through you alone
Can we the Father find;
In you, O Christ, is now revealed
God’s heart and will and mind.

You are the Truth; your words alone
True wisdom can impart;
You only can inform the mind
And purify the heart.

You are the Life; the empty tomb
Proclaims your conqu’ring arm;
For those who trust you, death and hell
Shall be no cause for harm.

You are the Way, the Truth, the Life:
Grant us that way to know,
That truth to keep, that life to win,
Whose joys eternal flow.

Text: George W. Doane, 1799-1859, alt.
Tunes: ST. JAMES (Courteville), DUNDEE, SHANTI

Image Credit: John 14:6 on Codex Petropolitanus Purpureus (sixth century)

“Word and Song: A Lectionary Reflection” is written by the Executive Director of The Hymn Society, Rev. Dr. Mike McMahon. For his full bio, click here and scroll down to the “staff” section.

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