5th Sunday of Easter / Mother’s Day 2017

     What next? Have you ever stopped to ask yourself what comes after our time on this earth is over? What’s next? As Christians we believe Jesus when He tells us in today’s Gospel that He has prepared a place for us. Should not then our ultimate goal in life be to arrive at that place God has prepared for us when this life comes to an end? But how do we get there?

     The best way that I know of arriving at a particular destination is to follow someone who has been there. Jesus, died, rose from the dead, came back to be with us and then ascended to the right hand of the Father. Jesus has gone to the one place all of us want to go. Jesus then is truly the way, the truth and the life, the one who can guide us to that place He has prepared for us.  After all He tells us in today’s Gospel that He will come back and take us to that place He has prepared for us.

     While Jesus is no longer walking this earth He did not leave us orphans. No, knowing that He was going to ascend to the Father, He gave the apostles, under the guidance of St. Peter, the command to “make disciples of all nations.”[1] and to “go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”[2] He told St. Peter, “you are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.[3] Simply put Jesus, established a Church to carry out His saving work in the world down through the ages and Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit to guide Church into the fullness of truth.[4] The early Church took these commands and promises of Jesus seriously. In the Acts of the Apostles[5] we see how the apostles and elders came together under the leadership of St. Peter to decide a matter of faith, and even St. Paul “went up to Jerusalem to confer with Peter.”[6]

     Yet as the faith spread, the Apostles knew that they needed help in their ministry and so, as we hear in today’s 1st reading, they went and laid hands on other men giving them particular authorityto exercise certain ministries in the name of Christ. While today’s first reading talks about the ordaining of deacons, the apostles also ordained their successors, the bishops in the same manner by laying hands on them. Those men in turn ordained successors by laying hands on them, who interned laid hands on their successors right down until today. If you walk into my office you will see a framed document written in latin hanging over my desk. That document is probably the most valuable piece of paper I own, because it is a letter signed by Archbishop Carlson attesting to the fact that he ordained me a priest. This document is important, because it traces my ministry back to Archbishop Carlson which then traces it back to the bishop who ordained him a bishop, back to the bishop who ordained that bishop, all the way back uninterrupted to one of the apostles and thus ultimately back to Christ’s commands, which means that all though unworthy, I can minister as Jesus’ priest.

     This link back to the apostles is essential because Jesus promised the apostles that He would be with us “always to the closing of the ages.”[7] Outside of the Catholic churches there is no church that even claims to have this link all the way back to the apostles. Thus if we truly want to be guided to that place that Christ has prepared for us we need simply stay within the teachings and practice of the Catholic Church.

     While it is easy to say, that all we have to do is stay in the Church, those of us who are trying to live out our Catholic faith know how hard it really is and all of us know their are many things that can easily pull us from the safety of our Church. Some of us may struggle with friends who scorn our faith, or some sort of habitual sin like drugs, alcohol. Others of us may have relationship issues or be facing the pain of tragedy. Perhaps some of us struggle with a dislike or lack of understanding of certain controversial Church teachings. Regardless of whatever or whoever may be causing us to struggle to stay in the Church, I think that struggle becomes easier when we begin to see the Church as our mother.

     Friends, the Church is truly our mother and just as mothers often have to put unpopular limits on their children and teach them unpopular truths, so too, the Church must speak truths that are unpopular and call us to a life that will not always be easy.  Yet even when we don’t see it, like all good mothers, our mother the Church, only challenges us in the ways She does because like our own mothers, She knows that it will lead us to remain in God’s love.

     Friends, find your safety in this Church. Come to you Mother the Church, have life and have it abundantly.

[1] Mt 28:19

[2] Mk 16:15

[3] Mt 16:18

[4] Jn 14:25-26

[5] Acts 15

[6] Gal 1:18

[7] Mt 28:20

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