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For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Fr. Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 3/10/2019 The 5th Sunday of Easter.
Please pause this audio and read John 14:1-14.
I have used an illustration from the Monty Python movie “The Life of Brian” many times. Brian is running away from the mobs who think he is the Messiah. As he is running to save his life, his sandal comes off. Half the group stops and holds up the sandal and say, “A sign!” The other half of the throng keeps running after him.
As he continues to run, he drops a gourd he was carrying. The people who didn’t stop for the sandal now stop, pick up the gourd, and say, “A sign!” The next morning, when he opens up his window to look out into the courtyard below, half the people have sticks with sandals hanging from them and half have sticks with gourds hanging from them. I was a Methodist minister at the time I saw that movie. When Brian opened his window and I saw the people below, I burst out laughing. I knew everyone one of those people in the courtyard. They were in my churches. Later, they came into my office for spiritual direction.
Among the many kinds of things we prop up to keep us from having a deep faith, looking for signs and a private message from God are two. Not everything is a sign from God to everyone. It can be a sign to someone, but maybe not you. Yet, if everything is a sign, then nothing is a sign from God.
In spiritual direction, we always have to ask the question internally and then check it out to see why a person wants a sign from God. Is it truly for discernment, or is it because they want to be on the inside with God?
Who doesn’t want an inside scoop? Many people have gone to jail because they got inside information. We call it “insider trading” and it is illegal. It is illegal because it is immoral. No one should have more of a shot than any others. Spiritually, those who are looking for the inside scoop with God have as their god (with a small ‘g’) prestige, power, and self-importance. At the heart of it is the question, “Are we seeking a relationship with Jesus Christ? If so, then do we take him at his word and have his word as our guiding principle of life?”
To have a relationship with Jesus Christ acknowledges that he is God. He and the Father are One. If that is the case, then can we take him at his word or must we have a sign? I mean our own personal sign. Do we really need a sign to tell us to not begin an adulterous relationship? Do we need a sign to tell us to not steal? Do we need a sign to tell us to forgive? There are many situations where we simply need to stop and apply what Jesus has told us already.
Thomas and Phillip both ask for signs. Thomas says, “We do not know where you are going?” My middle name is Thomas, so I have an affinity for the guy, but really, has he not been with Jesus? Has he not heard that Jesus will be persecuted, betrayed, arrested, crucified, but will rise from the dead? Jesus has healed the sick, raised Lazarus from the dead, etc., etc., what more does Thomas need? Jesus has told him that he is being resurrected from the dead. He is going to join heaven and earth in the reality that was lost in the Fall of humanity.
He has promised to join heaven and earth, go to heaven to prepare a place where we will go after we have completed the mission he has for us on earth. Then, at the Second Coming, we will be raised up and joined with our renewed bodies into the renewed heaven and renewed earth.
So, Thomas represents the skeptics who need a sign to believe. Then we have Phillip who says this to the God of the Universe standing before him, “Lord, show us the Father and we will be satisfied.” I don’t know about you, but I am just blown away by the hubris of humanity. “Lord, show me the ultimate sign: the beatific vision.” I always picture Phillip saying this while cleaning his fingernails, stretching out his hand and checking his work, and then sighing as he swipes them away pleased with his work. The power dynamic in this relationship is clear. Phillip, at this point, even after seeing Lazarus raised from the dead, is that of puppet master: dance for me and then I will believe that you are Lord.
That doesn’t work. That still places Phillip above Jesus, the God-man, with whom He and the Father are One. We, too, do this little maneuver. Lord, show us and we will then commit ourselves to you, as if rising from the dead himself is not enough proof. We have the benefit of knowing this, Phillip, at least, does not.
It might be good to remind us all that we are one small human on a small planet in a large solar system, in a larger galaxy, in an immense universe, possibly among other universes, all of them outside of God. “God is greater than that which can be thought,” said St. Anselm. The surety and confidence we look for in faith is not found in being given rock solid evidence that we are on the inside, we are favored, we are in the small group that knows. It is just the opposite. We gain surety and confidence in our future by admitting that we are not on the inside, not favored more than other humans, and are not in the small group that knows. It is from that point of frailty, that we encounter One who comes to Earth as one of us who is the same One that is outside of that vast Universe. It is through Him, in fact, that the universe is made.
Any wisdom, any truth, that leads us to insight into this, in any way shape and form comes from the one it is written, “without him not one thing came into being. What came into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.” So, if we want to know what the future holds, He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. W-T-L! That is, Way, Truth, Life.
So, when He says “In my father’s house are many rooms. I go to prepare a place for you.” Your faith can rest on the word from the Word made flesh who dwelt among us. What should I do in my life? What is God’s plan for me? It is for you to live a life that brings you to eternal life. It is a life that will keep you from adultery, stealing, fornication, lying, jealousy, wrath, envy, and anger. It is a life where you do not have to have all the answers. There is one who has the answers and it is enough. Because he is the One, we can trust that his promise is good.
So, what does a life that believes there is a place for us look like? It is a life that does not store up treasures here because we know there is a room awaiting us. It is a life that calms ourselves about death because we know God awaits us. It is a life that knows that we may be separated from God, but we will see him as he is one day, and that gives us a life with direction. Our direction is to gather to ourselves the things that keep us on that path, reject politely the things that take us on another route, and invite others on the same road.
There were some things that “The Life of Brian” got right. We have a sign. Our sign is Jesus Christ himself. There is a wooden beam upon which he was raised as our sign. It is the Cross upon which our sins were redeemed so that all we have to do is believe in the Way, the Truth, and the Life and we, too, will see the Lord in Heaven one day.
May God bless the preaching of the Gospel in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2020.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian