Saturday, May 17, 2014

May 18, 2014: 5th Sunday of Easter A

This past week was the week of graduations. Many high schools, including Ascension Catholic High, held their commencement exercises. The most likely question that a new graduate is asked is: “Where are you going?”

Do you remember way back when you graduated from high school? Did you know then what direction that you wanted your life to take? After graduating high school, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I originally selected undecided/pharmacy major when I began my freshman year at the  University of Texas at Austin. My dad was a pharmacist when he was in Korea; he made a decent living with that profession, so I thought a secure job was the best criteria for deciding my career. However, a couple of years later, this restless college student decided to change his major to Chemical Engineering, only because I saw on a career magazine that one of the highest paid engineering disciplines was Chemical Engineering. Did I love being a Chemical Engineer? No, but my major criteria for a happy life was satisfied--that I would have a stable, well-paying job to support a beautiful wife and children.

Is there a better criteria to base the direction of our lives than security and comfort? In the Gospel today, Jesus discloses to the disciples gathered at the Last Supper that he is going to a place where the disciples can’t follow at that moment but later. So Thomas asks, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus encourages them not to be troubled for he himself will come to direct and guide them to the Home prepared for them. Then Jesus shows them the roadmap when he says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” The destination is to be with the Heavenly Father, and Jesus himself is preparing each of them a place in the Father’s House.

Some of us here are at the beginning of our life; some of us are in the middle of our life; some of us near the end. Do we like where we are right now? Trappist monk Thomas Merton asked the following poignant questions: “Why do we have to spend our lives striving to be something we would never want to be, if we only knew what we wanted? Why do we waste our time doing things which, if we only stopped to think about them, are just the opposite of what we were made for?”

Merton, reflecting on his own checkered life, made this observation:
“Thus I use up my life in the desire for pleasures and the thirst for experiences, for power, honor, knowledge and love, to clothe this false self and construct its nothingness into something objectively real. And I wind experiences around myself and cover myself with pleasures and glory like bandages in order to make myself perceptible to myself and to the world, as if I were an invisible body that could only become visible when something visible covered its surface.”
Jesus knows that this is the inner struggle that we all face at different stages of our lives. We try to forge our own way using our own criteria and end up in dead-ends. So Jesus offers himself as the solution--the Way, the Truth, and the Life -- and he does this by coming to us personally, intimately, inviting us to change our lives and follow Him.

This past Friday when I celebrated mass at a nursing home, I clearly witnessed how Jesus personally and intimately enters our lives. Usually after communion as I’m cleaning the vessels before praying the concluding prayer, the residents are quiet -- meaning, mostly sleeping. However, on this past Friday, one of the elderly residents began singing:

O Lord I am not worthy
 that Thou should come to me,
 but speak the word of comfort,
 my spirit healed shall be.

And humbly I’ll receive Thee,
 the Bridegroom of my soul,
 no more by sin to grieve Thee
 or fly Thy sweet control.

In that moment, I felt as though God was talking through this little, elderly soul in her current station in life in the nursing home. It was like an echo from today’s Gospel, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me...I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

The answer to the question, “Where are you going,” depends on knowing what we are made for and who made us. For most of our lives we have struggled to find our own direction because we do not see that our direction in life, our purpose in life is to find God, to know God, to love God. We have failed many times, but do we realize that all this time God is pursuing us and loving us? God is looking into the distance for us, trying to find us, and longing to bring us home.” Can we spend this coming week to allow God to find us, to know us, and to love us?