By Jem Sullivan, OSV News
5th Sunday of Easter
Ps 33:1-2, 4-5, 18-19
1 Pt 2:4-9
In those early days of the global pandemic in spring 2020, our parish food pantry saw an unexpected and dramatic increase in the number of families in need of food assistance. The pandemic lockdown had resulted in loss of employment for many people who worked for local businesses that were forced to close.
Our parish food pantry coordinator, Doug, is “a saint next door.” He dedicates hours to ensuring that the pantry is well stocked, clean and organized. He is helped by a dedicated core of volunteers, from the parish and beyond, who lovingly serve those who come for food assistance. By Christmas 2020, the parish was serving close to five hundred needy families each week, a 100% increase from pre-pandemic days.
Each Sunday our pastor, Father Roberto Cortes-Campos, would remind the community to see the face of Jesus Christ in these brothers and sisters in need, and parishioners responded generously with weekly donations of food, clothing, and volunteer hours. Yet as the pandemic lingered on, the needs of the poor far exceeded the abilities of even the generous giving of the parishioners.
As we journey through the Easter season, we follow the growth of the early Christian community, built on the faith and preaching of the apostles. We read of how the needs of the poor and the widows outpaced the ability of the apostles to care for them. They had to prioritize prayer and the preaching of the word of God. Saint Luke tells us that the Twelve apostles said to the assembled community, “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table. Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task.” Thus, the first deacons were selected, and the apostles prayed and laid hands on them. Their service enabled the word of God to spread like wildfire as the community of disciples of Jesus increased greatly.
The apostle Peter, in the second reading, reminds the first Christians (and us), to draw near to Jesus, “a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God.” Peter urges the first disciples to be “like living stones,” building up the community with acts of faith and good works. He says, “let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
How do we exercise our baptismal priesthood as “living stones,” who build up community of believers, the spiritual house of the church today? Jesus shows the path as he responds to Thomas’ question, “Master…how can we know the way?” He responds to Thomas with these powerful words, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
In the power of the resurrection, we too can offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ as we draw close to the word of God, live our faith, and serve the poor among us. Then we can pray with confident Easter faith, “speak to me, Lord.”
Question: How are you called to follow Jesus who is “the way, and the truth, and the life?”
Jem Sullivan holds a doctorate in religious education and is an associate professor of Catechetics in the School of Theology and Religious Studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.