Gospel Reflection Questions

May 14, 2017 Reflection Questions 

Wednesday, May 10, 2017 12:01:00 AM

May 14, 2017

5th Sunday of Easter

John 14:1-12

 

[Jesus said to his disciples:] 1 "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. 2 In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. 4 Where I am going you know the way."

 

5 Thomas said to him, "Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?" 6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him."

 

8 Philip said to him, "Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us." 9 Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father?' 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves. 12 Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.

 

Background:

 

This text is part of a much larger section of John’s Gospel often referred to as “The Last Discourse.” It is the intimate conversation between Jesus and the disciples before the crucifixion. Similar examples of this kind of discourse can be found in the scriptures.  The 49th chapter of Genesis records Jacob’s farewell, Deuteronomy 31 to 33 has Moses’ farewell, and Paul’s farewell is found in chapter 20 of Acts. In general, these discourses begin with a prediction of approaching death, then offer encouragement to the speaker’s disciples, and thirdly give incentive to pass on their instruction to others who will come later.

 

In the text here, Jesus is reassuring the disciples before his departure. He seeks to calm their fear by encouraging them to trust in themselves and in God. He does not disguise the reality of his impending departure, but frames it in terms of going to prepare a place for them with God. He then tells them that when he returns, they (Jesus, the disciples, and God) will be reunited. It is ambiguous whether this reunion will be at the resurrection or in the final age.

 

This text, and John’s gospel in general, portrays Thomas as the one who questions Jesus and what he is trying to teach them. Philip, too, has a special relationship with Jesus in John’s gospel. He is one of the disciples that Jesus personally invites to be a follower, and he is the disciple responsible for bringing Nathaniel to Jesus (John 1:43-48). Jesus asked Philip how they might feed the multitude (John 6:5-9). When some Greeks came looking for Jesus, they approached Philip first. He and Andrew then took them to Jesus (John 12:20-22). When Philip asks Jesus to “Show us the Father” in verse 8, the question should be heard as coming from someone who has a special relationship with Jesus.

 

In verse 11, Jesus makes a rather bold statement that he (Jesus) is in the Father and the Father is in him. After 2,000 years of theological reflection, the contemporary Christian community may not find this kind of statement shocking. But for the early disciples, this was an extraordinary statement. In a kind of recognition of how difficult it may be to grasp what has just been stated, Jesus adds “or else, believe because of the works themselves [that I have performed].”

 

John’s community would find consolation in this text. Since Jesus’ ascension, they have experienced the death of some of their members. They have been expelled from the synagogue, the place that they believed to be the center of their relationship with God and society. Jesus’ words would help them find a new center of meaning in him, and assure them that they did, indeed, still have a place where they could gather together with him and with God.

 

Reflection Questions:

1.      What are the separations, losses, or deaths that are part of your life recently?

2.      In verses 2 and 3 of this gospel, Jesus speaks of having prepared a place for you. Do you hear that statement being addressed to you?

3.      Given what you know of both Thomas and Philip, how do you think Thomas and Philip were feeling as they heard Jesus speaking to them? How might their reactions have been both different and alike?

4.      Given Jesus’ relationship with Philip and Thomas, how do you think Jesus felt as they asked their questions?

5.      In verse 9, Jesus says to Philip: “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip?” Read these words out loud until they seem to capture the emotion of Jesus’ response to Philip. What comes across to you?

6.      In verse 5, John tells Jesus, “Master, we do not know where you are going, how we can know the way?” A few verses later Thomas says to Jesus, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Why do you think the evangelist chooses to record these statements by these two disciples?

7.      If Jesus is indeed “the way” to return to God, how do you understand this “way” that Jesus has shown us? What does that mean for you?

8.      At the end of this text Jesus says: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.” Do you believe that what Jesus says here is true? How is it true in your own life?

8.

 

On Wednesday of each week, the Gospel and reflection questions for the upcoming Sunday are posted at the following link: http://il-ritiro.org/gospel-reflections.aspx.  You are invited to share your own reflection and comments with others at this website.  The reflection and questions are written by Fr. Paul Gallagher, OFM. They are edited by Sister Anne Marie Lom, OSF and Joe Thiel. The excerpts from the Sunday readings are prepared by Joe Thiel.  To be added to the distribution list, send your name and email address to fr.paul.gallagher.ofm@gmail.com.

 

Please include this information when printing or forwarding.

 

Excerpts from the readings for May 14, 2017, the Fifth Sunday of Easter

 

 

As the number of disciples grew, some widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.

The Twelve called together the community and said, "It is not right for us to neglect the word of God

to serve at table.  Select from among you seven men filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall

appoint to this task." So they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit, also Philip,

Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch. The apostles prayed and laid hands on

them.  The word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased

greatly; even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith.

 

 

Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.

Exult, you just, in the Lord; give thanks to the Lord on the harp; chant his praises.

Upright is the word of the Lord, and all his works are trustworthy.

He loves justice and right; of the kindness of the Lord the earth is full.

See, the eyes of the Lord are upon those who fear him, upon those who hope for his kindness,

to deliver them from death and preserve them in spite of famine.

 

 

Beloved: Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight

of God, and, like living stones, be built into a spiritual house to offer spiritual sacrifices to God.

For it says in Scripture: Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion, a cornerstone, chosen and precious,

and whoever believes in it shall not be put to shame. Its value is for you who have faith.

But for those without faith: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone, a stone that will make people stumble and fall. They stumble by disobeying the word, as is their destiny.

You are "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own,

so that you may announce the praises" of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

 

 

Jesus said to his disciples: "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God;

have faith also in me. In my Father's house there are many dwelling places.

If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself,

so that where I am you also may be.  Where I am going you know the way."

Thomas said to him, "Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?"

Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him."

Philip said to him, "Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us."

Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip?

Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'?

Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?

The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.

Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or believe because of the works themselves.

Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do,

and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father."

 

Excerpts from Acts 6:1-7; Psalm 33:1-2, 4-5, 18-19; 1 Peter 2:4-9; and John 14:1-12

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