Fifth Sunday of Easter
04 May 2020
Sr. Dawn M. Nothwehr, OSF

First Reading: Acts 6:1-7
Responsorial Psalm 23:1-2, 4-5, 18-19
Second Reading: 1 Peter 2:4-9
Gospel: John 14:1-12

I live about three blocks from Rush Medical Center in Chicago. Rush is a place that cares for people suffering illness from the Covid-19 virus. Like so many these days, I have been working from home since mid-March. During this time, quite constantly, nearly every hour, both day and night, numerous ambulances fly by my apartment on the nearly empty lanes of West Roosevelt Road on their way to Rush – all with the hope of bringing their precious charge to the healing hands of Rush’s medical staff. Yet, while there is a sense of hope in the sound of the sirens, there is also the twinge of fearful concern – “Will they make it in time?” Or, “If they don’t, might I be next?”

Today’s readings extend to us Jesus’ love, mercy, and care to strengthen our burdened and anxious hearts. The First Reading speaks volumes to us about how the earliest Christians understood Jesus’ love and how to live in the love of Jesus. We must love, not only in the sense of worship and praise to God, but also in concrete, practical ways of ensuring the well being of others. Here we see the earliest evidence of the Social Mission of the Church. It was not enough to just pray! Rather, it was essential to pray and act, making God’s love real through diaconal service and caring for those in need.

Indeed, that ministry of the Church is vibrantly present today during our current pandemic. As Cardinal Cupich put it: “My conversations with local officials is simply this: Tell us what you need, and we’ll see what we can do.” Among the many ways, the Archdiocese has responded is to train 24 priests in the proper use of personal protective equipment to enable them to safely minister to Covid-19 patients.

The Second Reading reinforces the message that God’s love, care, and mercy are ours to have – and, not in just a generic superficial way. Rather, we each are to be part of a chosen, royal people. There is a marvelous strength and intimacy to be found – if we open our lives to that invitation. God’s offer speaks of the profound conquest of fear and death flowing from the resurrected Christ, inspiring us to care for one another. As we shelter in place and cover our faces with masks, we care for one another through economic losses, illnesses, and even death.

The Gospel captures our hearts, offering God’s love, care, and consolation – speaking to us of being “at home in God” – a place where all the goods we associate with HOME are known in spades! The “many dwelling places” that are prepared for us, are in fact the many ways that God comes to us, dwelling in each one’s heart. We are thus, empowered, in ordinary life, but especially in our time of crisis, suffering, or even death –

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled.
You have faith in God; have faith also in me.
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? …
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.”

Sr. Dawn M. Nothwehr, OSF
Professor of Catholic Theological Ethics