Sunday’s gospel has Jesus imploring his disciples to believe that Jesus and the Father are one. Not an easy idea to grasp in the first place. Then he goes on to tell them that they will do greater works than these…
Well the question I have is what would Jesus consider greater works?
And perhaps we place too much emphasis on the miracles that Jesus performs and even more so, we place a lot of stock in the “magic trick” aspect of Jesus’ ministry.
The truth of the gospel today is that having faith is the greatest work that we can accomplish, because simply put, God doesn’t need to have faith in himself. And when things start to rain down around us, isn’t it almost impossible some days to believe in God at all, much less a God who claims to love us above all things?
When people get cancer or when wars take innocent lives, having faith in God isn’t always the first thing that comes to mind. There often crosses that we bear that cause us to forget about that first cross, that cross that some of us wear around our necks. That cross that doesn’t represent violence and anger and death for us, no….we have the gift of being able to look beyond the cross into the resurrection and into everlasting life.
But when we are mired in our own tragedies, it’s not so easy to look beyond them. Our crosses put us in the same place that they put Jesus….
We doubt. We yell, ‘MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME.”
Perhaps, we are called to greater works than Jesus did. Perhaps each time when we are on our cross, we are called to look beyond it into hope. And being people of hope can cause us to act just a bit different, if we are open enough to believe.
Younger people today are often absent from our pews. Studies show perhaps less than 10% of people in their 20s and 30s even bother to show up on Sunday. Can we be hopeful about that? Can we show the world that we can believe in a God in the midst of school shootings, natural disasters and terrorism? Can we have faith that somehow, God turns things all around and redeems our crosses and brings us all into resurrection?
Our first reading is the first ordination of Deacons. And I believe that Deacons, ordained men who hold jobs and have families in the world are one of our strongest signs of faith in the world. But it can’t be up to them alone. We all need to be that sign of hope. We must be the sign of the cross in the world, the sign that says that to the ordinary eye this cross is not the end but rather is a sign of God’s love to all of us. And moreover, we must be the sign that God goes beyond the cross, beyond our death, beyond our remorse and our fear into a new and glorified life.
If we believed that truly in our hearts would we ever be afraid again? Wouldn’t we walk with greater joy? Wouldn’t we have more enthusiasm for our faith? Wouldn’t our young people be drawn here and wouldn’t we all be driven from here on fire for the world’s poor and suffering?
Perhaps it’s time for all of us to believe that we will do greater works than Jesus. And the first of many acts is simply to have faith when our hearts our troubled.
The rest will spring from the joy we express because we believe.
A final story: My wife’s uncle Andy died from complications after a simple surgery. But well before that, he once said to me that he was unafraid to die. He was a deacon in his parish in New Jersey and a father and grandfather. He was a constant visitor to his aging parents and he loved to baptize little babies. At his wake a young man who Andy served as a spiritual director was quite distraught by Andy’s death and after sitting with him for some time comforting him he said something that summed up Andy’s life quite well.
“The truth is often scary. And Deacon Andy told me that when we face our truth and really live lives that correspond with who God calls us to be, we will be freed from that fear that prevents us from becoming all that we are. And more importantly, that keeps us from real joy.”
May we all find that joy, the joy that Andy knew deeply and shared with others. And on this day when we read in scripture of our first deacons may we be reminded by them of that same joy that they bring to the world.