We hear about a famous road in today’s gospel, the road to Jericho. The road from Jerusalem to Jericho was a favorite haunt for robbers and outlaws.
In the first reading, Isaiah tells us in graphic language what Jerusalem meant to the Jews. It was the center of worship, the center of their lives.
It is obvious from today’s gospel that Jesus is not promising us a rose garden. He cannot even promise His followers a place to lay their heads.
Corpus Christi. Sixteen hundred years ago a Bishop of Jerusalem addressed some converts on the Holy Communion that they were to receive for the first time. He said, “When you come up to receive, make your left hand a throne for the right, for it is about to receive a King.” Cup your palm and so receive the Body of Christ, then answer “Amen.” Take care not to lose part of it. Such a loss would be like a mutilation of your own body. Why if you had been given gold dust, would you not take the utmost care to hold it fast? Be careful not to let a grain slip through your fingers, lest you be so much the poorer.
Today is Trinity Sunday. Our faith tells us there is but one God, and in thy one God there are three persons - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The three persons are really distinct: the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Father, and the Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son.
Today in the Gospel we read that the disciples of Jesus were hiding. They were hiding in fear behind closed and locked doors. They were shutting out the rest of the world which was hostile, persecuting and terrifying. They felt better huddled together, in isolation and planning what to do next, and where to go.
In our Gospel today we read the prayer of Jesus the night before he died. It is the longest prayer in the Bible. He says, “Father, most Holy, protect them which You have given Me. I gave them Your word and the world has hated them for it. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to guard them from the evil one. As You have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.”
In 1996 a car accident tore open the head of a 21-year-old Chicago boy named Peter. Peter was gravely injured, in a deep coma with sustained brain damage. The doctor’s told Peter’s family and friends that he probably would not survive, and even if he did, he would always be in a comatose state.
The gardener who spoke softly to the grieving Mary Magdalen in the garden. The stranger who walked with the despairing Disciples on the road to Emmaus. The appearance that startled the fearful Apostles hiding behind closed doors in the upper room. The cook who appeared on the shore of the lake and prepared fish for incredulous Disciples. The shepherd who pursued with determined love the lost lamb.
This is an extremely rich Gospel. It helps to remember that it was written in a time of trauma for the Church. It opens with the Disciples at sea. They are confused, they are lost, they are empty. They are still reeling from the death of their Master. They do not seem to know what to do with themselves, so in a kind of reflex action they revert to their old trade, fishing.
Each year the Church celebrates Doubting Thomas Day. It is a rough day for the Apostle. Not only does the poor fellow miss out on Jesus’ first appearance to His Disciples, but he tells them that they must have dreamed it, and the only way he will believe Jesus has risen is to put his fingers into the wounds of Calvary. A week later, the Lord embarrasses him with just that invitation, “Trace My wounds.”
When Judas arrived at the Garden of Olives to arrest Jesus, Jesus asked him, “Why are you here?” So today I ask you the same question: friends, why are you here after all our Church has gone through? This is the same Church you have been reading about in the headlines. This is what has been called by one newspaper the “Scandal Ridden Church.”
Two men are facing each other. One is only 10 hours away from death; the other just told a group gathered around a fire that he did not know the man who was going to His death. No, no, he protested, I do not know Him; I have never been with Him; I swear I have not.
Many years ago I was asked to visit a patient in a psychiatric hospital. When I arrived, the patient was with a nurse so I had to wait. I was shown into a large room. At first, I thought I was alone until I sat down. At the other end of the room sitting at a small table was a young woman. On the table was a jigsaw puzzle which she was trying to put together. She held up two small pieces of the puzzle that did not match. She tried to force them together, then she would drop one and pick up another, banging them on the table trying to make them fit. Then some fell on the floor, and she became more agitated. She looked down and said softly to herself, “The pieces don’t fit, the pieces don’t fit.”