Mission Society of the Philippines

Homilies

5th Sunday of Easter Year A

Faith in Action

“As the number of disciples continued to grow, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.” This event in the life of the first Christians showed that the young Church was slowly gaining in number. Many people are being added to the followers of Christ. Together with this rise are the organizational concerns that are expected. The situation calls for a new way of taking care of the flock, now composed of Jews and Hellenists (Greek converts). There were changes. This crisis that needed attention called for change. It stemmed from the neglect in the daily distribution of goods to a vulnerable group that time, the widows. (It can be compared a bit with the crisis that we have today, COVID-19, and the government’s response to give aid to people, some groups are crying that they have been neglected in the distribution of aid.)

In this 5th Sunday of Easter, I would like to reflect on Faith being put into Action. Please let me share three points:

Firstly, the readings for this Sunday call us to be discerning about what the Lord wants us to do when faced with certain situations. The first reading recalls the response to the needs of the community. The solution was to add more personnel in the person of the seven reputable men, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and were wise. These men were traditionally called the first deacons, men of service, who served the community, so the apostles were able to do their task. They continued to devote their time to prayer and in proclaiming the word of God. I can really see here how the early Church adapted to the little crisis that they faced. It called for a new step of action. It made me realize that as a Church, for us to be relevant, we must adapt to the present situation.

For us to move forward in life, it is believed that we needed I.Q. or Intelligence quotient to be able to reason, be logical, deal with problem solving, etc. We also need E.Q. or Emotional Quotient to be able to look after our physical and mental well-being, have ability to inspire and lead. However, there is one that is related to EQ and is also very much needed, that is, A.Q. or Adaptability Quotient. It is how well a person reacts to the inevitability of change and lots of it. It can be measured, tested and improved. The world is speeding up and accelerating just like what we are seeing at this very moment with the speed of how our lives were turned upside down so fast with this crisis. Government, institutional and even family dynamics are changing, and we are forced to grapple with change like never before. In this fast-changing world, we can learn from our deposit of faith. The first Christians can teach us many things: they listened well, discerned the correct actions, and asked for inspiration.

Secondly, the readings for this Sunday call us to examine what is constant during all these calls to adapt. Let us listen to the words of our Lord Jesus: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.” Jesus was consoling the disciples who were then experiencing a lot of fast changes. At one-point Jesus was with them daily, then he was crucified, died and was risen. At another point he was joining them again, and then suddenly, he was starting his farewell discourses. It’s another change of situation. He will leave them physically, but not before comforting, consoling and assuring them. It took a while before Philip understood what Jesus meant, but when he did, he knew that his faith in Jesus is a constant in a continuously changing environment that he was in. This made me think of our situation as a world in flux, in a fast change. What makes us take the drivers seat even if we are all experiencing the changes together, is our faith in God. He will never abandon us. That is constant. Jesus is there with us all the way.

Last Christmas season, I met a very interesting man, Richard. He’s a hardworking farmer, businessman who owns a small business in the hog industry. At that time the African Swine Flu/ Fever was wreaking havoc in the Hog industry. Many pig farms were either bankrupt or suffered devastating losses. And what struck me were his words. “Padre, hindi naman tayo pababayaan ni Lord. Sa awa ng Diyos, may mga nadali dine sa mga malalapit na lugar, pero kami ho ay okey naman. Kaya yan padre.” I was amazed at his deep faith. That explains it that even early at dawn, or late at night, he continues to serve his parish, and during the day after a brief rest, works hard for his family. Covid19 is No ASF. But what is constant is our faith in the Lord. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.”

Thirdly, the readings teach us to perform things just as Jesus said and did, “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.” “It is important that the evangelist John connects belief in Jesus to Christian mission.” In Christianity, serving one another is an expression of our belief in God. The second reading echoes this, calling believers to holiness by creating a community founded on Christ’s life, love and service. “Like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”. Another Gospel text that stresses the same message is in Matthew 25: “For I was hungry and you gave me food… Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” This message makes me uncomfortable, knowing that in the coming months and even years, there are at least more than 200 million people projected to go hungry because of the effects of this crisis. I know personally of people whose businesses, careers and livelihood are in peril. Here’s what I would like to say: My sister works as a Hotel manager. Under her care are at least 60 people. However, during these times, the workforce is down to only four people. I am sure there are many more stories that we can relate with. Our faith teaches us to follow Jesus’ inspiration to help the ones in need, starting with those within our networks.

It stirs us to ask these questions: What actions can we take to serve our immediate community? How does the Holy Spirit empower us to serve in holiness? “Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.” Amen.

Fr. Marc Louie M. Calo, MSP,

Biñan, Laguna, Philippines,

9 May 2020


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