As the number of disciples continued to grow, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. So, the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, "It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table. Brothers, select among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word."
The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit, also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles who prayed and laid hands on them. The word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly; even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith.(P) The word of the Lord.
Exult, you just, in the Lord; praise from the upright is fitting. Give thanks to the Lord on the harp; with the ten-stringed lyre chant his praises. (R)
Upright is the word of the Lord, and all his works are trustworthy. He loves justice and right; of the kindness of the Lord the earth is full. (R)
See, the eyes of the Lord are upon those who fear him, upon those who hope for his kindness, to deliver them from death and preserve them in spite of famine. (R)
Beloved: Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God, and, 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. For it says in Scripture: "Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion, a cornerstone, chosen and precious, and whoever believes in it shall not be put to shame." Therefore, its value is for you who have faith, but for those without faith: "The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone," and "a stone that will make people stumble, and a rock that will make them fall." They stumble by disobeying the words, as is their destiny.
You are "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises" of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.(P) The word of the Lord.
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? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where I am going you know the way." Thomas said to him, "Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?" Jesus said to him, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him."
Philip said to him, "Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us." Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you for so long a time and you still not do know me, Philip?" Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, "Show us the Father"? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves. 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."(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
There is a story of an older couple who had a rebellious son. He would often stumble in from a night of revelry and drunkenness and passed out on his bed late at night. The father noticed that the mother would always get up shortly after their son had come home. Inquisitively, he got up one night to see what she was doing. He found her in their son's bedroom kneeling by his side and caressing him and stroking his face gently and kissing his hand and covering him up with a blanket. He asked her, "What are you doing here? Do you do this every day?" The mother replied, "Yes. I do this every day. I must show my love to him when he is asleep, because he will not allow me to do so when he is awake."
Loving children is what most moms do naturally and unconditionally. However, God's love for His children is much more than their mother's love. Let us remember the words of the prophet Isaiah. God asks, could a mother abandon her nursing child, or lack compassion for the child of her womb? Of course, a "good" mother would never abandon her child. However, God says that even if human mothers forsake their children, He will not forget His own because He loves us even when we refuse to love Him, Isaiah (49:14-16). He forgives us, and like a devoted mother, nurtures and comforts us with His tender loving care, Isaiah (66:13).
In today's gospel we read Jesus' farewell message to his followers and disciples, John (14:1-12). He said, "Do not let your hearts be troubled". Why did Jesus make this statement? Just prior to saying these words, Jesus had shocked his disciples by telling them several things that would happen very soon.
He had told them that:
Hearing these words, the disciples were greatly troubled and filled with doubt, because they had been counting on Him being around for a very long time. They were expecting Him to free them from foreign rulers. They were hoping for Jesus to take David's throne and rule the world for an eternity. But when, finally, it dawned on them that Jesus was going to die at a young age, their hearts were heavy and deeply troubled. They were confused and sad. Seeing their anxiety, Jesus wanted to leave them with a message of comfort and hope. So, He said, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Have faith in God; have also faith in me." Yes. Trusting in God and in Jesus was a remedy and antidote for their troubled hearts.
Jesus also knew that His followers would be constraint by what they see around them - betrayal, denial, persecution and death. So, he turned their attention to the joys and glories of heaven. Instead of focusing on bad things or negative things in life, he wanted them to look forward in anticipation to an eternity with God, the Father. He said, "In My Father's house are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?" It was an assurance from Jesus to His disciples that they would have a place with Him, and that He would not abandon them. But he must leave them so he could prepare a place for them and for all those who believe in him.
Jesus then comforted them by saying that they knew the way to the place where He was going. As soon as Jesus declared this, Thomas complained that they did not know where Jesus was going, and how they would know the way. He said it so because Jesus had told them already that where he was going they could not go for the time being, John (8:21). But now Jesus let them know that they did indeed know the way, even if they did not realize it at the moment. Only later did they realize that going to the place where Jesus has gone, would require them to take a step of faith and travel on a road that is long and rough.
In response to Thomas, Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him." It means that the God the Father can only be known through Jesus. The only way to the Father is the Way of the Son, Jesus. Jesus' response also reveals that heaven is not so much a place, but a Person (the Father), and the way to that place is another Person (the Son). Yes. Jesus is the Way to the Father.
Hearing Jesus' assertion that "they know the Father and have seen him", another disciple, Philip, asked Jesus to show them the Father and that would be enough. Philip was referring to some outward and visible manifestation of God. God had already manifested himself in various ways to the prophets of old, and Philip affirmed that if such manifestation should be made to them they would be satisfied. But Jesus chided Philip for not knowing him even after he had been with them for a long time, and said that He is God, the Father Himself. To see Him is to see and experience God the Father. It was right to desire for God the Father's manifestation, but such evidence had been displayed abundantly already in the miracles and teachings of Jesus, and that should have satisfied them.
The Father actually did the working by allowing His Spirit to work through His Son Jesus. So, Jesus urged his disciples to believe in his declarations that "He is in the Father and the Father is in Him, or else, believe because of the works themselves". In other words, there were two grounds on which they might believe; one was his own testimony, and the other was his miraculous works, such as raising the dead, cleansing the lepers, causing the deaf to hear, and giving sight to the blind; and which only a divine person could perform. Moreover, Jesus promised that his followers would do the same works, and do even greater things than He had done because He would be recommending them to the Father.
What lessons can we learn, and how can we apply them to our own life situation?
God Bless You!