Fifth Sunday of Easter – Year A

William F. Waters, O.S.A.
Church of Saint Augustine
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Acts 6: 1-7
Ps 33: 1-2, 4-5, 18-19
1 Pt 2: 4-9
Jn 14: 1-12

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled.” (Jn 14:1) Don’t let them? Do I have control if my heart gets troubled or not?

It is easy for Jesus to say that I shouldn’t let my heart get troubled as I experience the death of a close relative or friend, as I myself have a serious ailment or I experience the serious sickness of someone close to me, as I deal with an addiction-my own or someone else’s, as I experience a divorce, as my parents are fighting, or as I am out of work. How can I prevent myself in these situations and many others from being troubled?

It sounds to me as if Jesus had a troubled heart when in a very frustrating tone he said to his disciples, “You still don’t understand” (Mk 8:17), when he “began to be grieved and agitated” (Mt 26:27) in Gethsemane, when he prayed in anguish to his Father, “If possible, take this cup from me” (Lk 22:42), and, feeling abandoned, when he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27:46). St. Augustine certainly had a troubled heart as he describes his own heart and all of our hearts as restless. (Confessions, Book 1, Chapter 1)

I think what we are to do when our hearts get troubled is to put everything into perspective and try to see the whole picture. As Jesus was frustrated, he understood the frailty, limitations, and weaknesses of his friends and consequently he didn’t give up on them. As he was in torment and about to die, Jesus shared his troubled heart with ‘the one who sent him” which is what we call prayer. Interestingly enough, he took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee with him (Mt 26:37). As a result of prayer, he knew he had been faithful to the mission of his Father’s mandate for him on earth and he knew with confidence that “today” (Lk 23:43) he would be in the kingdom.

St. Augustine did not ignore his restless heart. He wrestled with it. He searched and tells us in the Confessions that after his searching he realized Jesus was within him and that awareness helped his troubled heart not to be as troubled.

I think it is not so much that we have troubled hearts on our own journey to the kingdom, as it is how we handle our troubled hearts. I can feel sorry for myself and despair. Or I can put the reality of life in perspective with the total picture of Jesus being “the way, the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6), as we hear him say about himself in the Gospel this weekend.

Jesus saw many people with troubled hearts: the lepers, the people without food in the desert, the woman who was bleeding for 12 years, the woman who was crippled for 18 years, the blind man, the deaf man, the mute man, the paralyzed man, Martha and Mary when Lazarus died, the woman caught in adultery, the centurion whose servant was gravely ill, the man with the withered hand, the man who had no one to put him into the pool, as well as his own mother and disciples in the “Upper Room” after his death.

How were their troubled hearts healed? They reached out to Jesus, which at times was risky. They encountered Jesus. They experienced Jesus. They allowed Jesus to touch them. They listened to what he said to do and they did it. They allowed Jesus to come to them through the locked doors.

We see how Jesus handled his own heart when it was troubled. We see how Jesus handled the troubled hearts of the people with whom he interacted and we see how they responded with their troubled hearts. We see how St. Augustine handled his restless heart. May all of this give us confidence that as we pray and at times include others in that prayer, as we encounter and experience Jesus by reaching out to him, as we search, as we put things in perspective, and as we do what he tells us to do, it will increase our faith in him as well as our awareness of his presence within us.

All of this will increase our faith so our troubled hearts can be healed, or at least calmed.