Not To Be Afraid

Dcn. John Stanley’s Homily May 26, 2019

“For the last few weeks we have read from the Gospel of John and in particular from the last supper discourse of Jesus.  Today is the sixth Sunday of Easter and the Gospel readings keep circling back to that night before Jesus died and why is this?  Why is it that the Church keeps bringing us back to that farewell address of Jesus? Well it’s because of the depth of the theology and the summation of the Christian life.

You know, the Last Supper discourse is five chapters long in John’s Gospel.  His entire Gospel is twenty one chapters long so almost 25% of all the Gospel of John is devoted to that two or three hour discourse on the night before Jesus died.  Jesus was taking this time this very solemn time on this evening where he knew that the next day his Passion would begin. Immediately after he would leave this solemnity, this solemn night, his Passion would begin so it was important to him to bring it all together.  The apostles had been with him for three years. They’d followed him, they’d listen to him. He taught them. They witnessed his miracles and now Jesus would lay it all out the night before he died. He tries to prepare them for him not being around for his death, resurrection, ascension to Heaven.  That night he intimately shares with them his body and blood. He washes their feet. The master washes the feet of the servants. He shares his heart with them. He tells them that he’s going to his father’s house where he will prepare a room for them. He gives them a new commandment, ‘You are to love one another as I have loved you.’  He speaks eloquently the need to stay connected to him. He uses the metaphor of the vine and the branches. ‘I am the vine, you are the branches.’ He tells them that the Father and he are one and he is the way and the truth and the life and he tells that that there’s no greater love that one can have than to lay down one’s life for a friend and then he looks at them and he tells them, ‘You are my friends.’  He prays for them and he prays for those who will follow them. That’s us. He prays for us. He prays for the world. He prays for the Church. He prays that it always be one and yet, the apostles don’t seem to get it. They seem to be clueless. Peter asks, Lord where are you going? Thomas asks, ‘How will we know the way?’ And Phillip asks him, ‘Lord show us the father and that will be enough.’ Jesus tells Phillip, ‘Have you not been with me all this time?’  It doesn’t seem to be sinking in and now we come to our Gospel reading. In the verse just preceding our Gospel reading we hear another question. This time it’s from Judas, not Judas the betrayer, but the other Judas known as Jude. He asks Jesus immediately before this gospel reading, ‘Why just reveal yourself to us? Why don’t you reveal yourself to the whole world?’ I think he spoke these words that the other apostles were also thinking that if you are who you say you are then do something spectacular.  Squash this tyranny of the Romans. Use your powers to subdue these tyrants and we hear these words in the Gospel today, ‘Whoever loves me will keep my word and my father will love him and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.’ Jesus tells them that it is only through love that he will reveal himself to them and it’s love that he reveals himself to us and then he tells them very intimately that he has come not just to pass by but he has come to dwell with them to abide with them. Jesus then goes on realizing that they’re not really getting it.  Knowing their limited understanding, their weak human nature, he makes a promise that the Father will send an advocate, a helper, the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit will teach them and remind them of everything that he told them. Think of the love Jesus had for those apostles. Think of his love for you and I. He loves us so much. He knows our nature for he was born of a woman. He lived a human life. He knew temptation. He knew sorrow and pain and he promised his apostles and he promises us that he has come not to be a figure head, a CEO if you will. He is not a distant person to look at and look up to, no he dwells with us, he abides with us, Jesus is alive.  He is with us in the gift of the Eucharist.

Easter Season is winding down.  Jesus will soon ascend to Heaven and sit at the right hand of his father yet he promised in his last will and testament of that night before he died that he would not leave us orphans for he has given us the Holy Spirit and he’s given us those consoling words, ‘Do not be afraid.’

You know yesterday here at the Church of the Ascension, six young men were ordained into the priesthood.  Some of you may have been here. It was a joyous occasion. I didn’t count them but there were 70 or 80 priests right up here around the altar.  It was too crowded for an old deacon to be up here so I was sitting over there taking it all in and it was a beautiful, beautiful thing and there was one person that came to my mind and I was glad that there was one person who didn’t show up and that would be the state fire marshal.  As beautiful as all of it was I was especially moved to see how many young people were in attendance, how many families brought their young children to this, 2 ½ hours. I think it was the best 2 ½ hours that could happen in the world yesterday. It was a beautiful thing. It gave me hope for the future of the church and it all goes back to God’s love for us and his desire to dwell within us.  His love for those twelve bewildered men who he did not give up on 2,000 years ago, those men who changed, the Holy Spirit came to them and they gave us the Church, the Church that we know today. Jesus gave himself in the Eucharist. He sent us the Holy Spirit. This is a Gospel of hope. He continues to guide the Church. The Holy Spirit continues to guide the Holy Church in this very treacherous world in this very treacherous time.  Yes, it is a time not to be afraid.”