Welcome to a reflection on the 5th Sunday of Easter. Today’s Gospel begins with words we long to hear in this time of a pandemic. “Do not let your hearts be troubled,” says Jesus. Let’s spend a few minutes seeing how that might be true for us – even now.
The apostle Philip interrupts Jesus. Now Philip is a saint but this was not one of his finer moments. He says, “Lord, show us the Father and we will be satisfied.” In other words, “show us the Creator of it all. Show us the one who gives us all the answers. Why do we suffer? Why do we die? Why is there evil in the world? Give us those answers and we will be satisfied.” Throughout history we have asked those questions. Maybe we are asking them in this pandemic.
Four hundred years after Philip, St. Augustine will become one of the greatest theological minds of all time. He is in the theologian Hall of Fame. He was obsessed with the big questions and the big answers. He wrote seven books about the Holy Trinity. One time , when he was writing still another book on the Trinity, he was walking along the beach on the Mediterranean and saw a child running back and forth from the sea to a hole he had dug in the sand. The child carried a bucket, filled the bucket with seawater, dumped it into the hole he had made and did this over and over again. Augustine asked him why he was doing that. The child replied, “I’m trying to put the sea into this hole.” Augustine responded, “You can’t do that. It won’t fit.” The child, who was an angel in disguise, said “Neither can you put the Mystery of God into your mind. It won’t fit.”
Philip was like Augustine before that encounter with the angel disguised as a child. Show us the Father, show us all the answers, and we will be satisfied. There is another apostle in today’s gospel. It is Thomas. Unlike Philip, he asks a humble question: “How can we know the way?” Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” The way of sacrificial love – compassion, mercy and hope – is the way. A way that we will not always understand, a way that is greater than anything we can fit into our heads, it is a peace that passes all understanding. And that way will emerge everywhere and forever because love is stronger than death.
I was blessed to come across a poem recently that says this truth far more powerfully than I can articulate it. It is called, “A Coming Alleluia” by The Rev. Erika Takacs. One should never explain a poem before it is read, so don’t tell the bishop, but here is something to keep in mind. The poet will refer to the “old mother hen.” This comes from Luke 13:34 when Jesus uses this maternal image of himself and says this: “How often have I desired to gather you together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings.”
Here’s the poem written for our Easter Season, written for our season of a pandemic.
“They say there will be no Easter this year.
No lilies to fill a bright room
with a fanfare of pollen.
No garden, no angel,
They say that our journey
Born in sackcloth and ashes
will lead us at last to nowhere.
And so we sit worried
that the tomb, this year,
will be found, for once,
That Mary and the others
will leave with their spices
and come back home with nothing.
That this year the women will finally end their work- anoint and then leave empty.
Ssh. Be still.
Do you not hear her?
Clucking close by like an old mother hen, brooding and sighing and stretching her wings?
Fear not, she says,
for I did it before
In the silence
in the dark
in a closed and locked room
In a world that had known
Did I not proveThe Rev. Erika Takacs
once for all
that there is nothing you can do,
no decision you can make
(for good or for ill)
that can stop
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Jesus is rising. Even now. Especially now.