Fifth Sunday of Easter – Year A

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Michael H. Bielecki, O.S.A. 
St. Thomas Monastery
Villanova, Pennsylvania

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

During this entire Easter Season, which lasts for 50 days until Pentecost, the message we hear again and again is that Jesus’ resurrection reversed the power of evil, sin and death.

Our Liturgy of the Word gives us God’s view of life. God’s view, of course, is very different from our view and that is the why our hearts are often troubled. We are challenged to change and accept God’s view, as the early Christians were, as mentioned in our first reading.

Jesus told stories to help his listeners enter into an acceptance of God’s view of life.

Our gospel today (often used at funerals) expresses what we Christians believe about what happens after death. One preface of the mass for the dead expresses our belief this way: Life is changed, not ended. When our body lies in death, we gain an everlasting dwelling place in heaven.

I would like for us to reflect upon a metaphor that, I believe, expresses our belief in the “next” life. Perhaps it may weaken our opposition to thinking that life is over when we die.

A whole colony of frogs lived in a deep well. They kept their customs, found their food, and croaked their throats away, filling with movement and sound the shadowed depths of their hospitable well. Their own isolation from the outside world protected them, and they lived in peace, alert only to avoid the fall of the bucket someone occasionally threw from the top to draw water from the well.

As soon as they heard the pulley screech, they raised the alarm, ducked out of the way or clung to the wall, and waited there until the bucket, full of water, was hauled up again and the danger was once again passed.

A young frog, after diving for cover in one such bucket alarm, began to think that the bucket, instead of being a danger could possibly be an opportunity. Up there on top he could see a bright opening whose aspect changed with the day and night, and on which shown profiles and shapes that suggested there was something worth knowing outside the well. All that had to be explored, he thought.

The young frog tried to discuss this idea of exploration, and immediately all the others came down heavily on him. That has never been done. It will be the ruination of our race. Heaven will punish us if we try it. You will be lost forever. We have been made to live here. Outside the well there could only be desolation and destruction. Let no one dare question the laws of our ancestors. How can you, a young frog, pretend to know better than our ancestors?

Despite all this talk and condemnation, the young frog waited patiently for the bucket to be lowered again. He crouched on the right spot, jumped onto the pail at the exact moment, was lifted up, and rose with it to the wonder and horror of the amphibian community.

The council of elders immediately excommunicated the runaway frog and forbade any talk about him. The dignity of life in the well had to be upheld. Months passed without anyone mentioning the renegade frog or anyone forgetting him. One day a familiar croak was heard over the side of the well. All the curious frogs gathered below, and they saw silhouetted against the sky the remembered profile of the enterprising renegade frog. He said:

“Up here there is a wonderful world waiting for us. There is water that runs, not like the water down there, and there are soft green blades that sprout from the ground, and it is a joy to move among them, and there are plenty of little beetles and tasty insects everywhere, and one can eat different things every day. And then there are many frogs of many types, and they are very cultured and there is plenty of space for everyone; because the fields are immense.” [In my Father’s House, there are many dwelling places.]

Down below the official authorities threatened the frog that if he attempted to return, he would be executed for high treason; and he said that he had no intention to return and wished all of them a happy life, and he went away. (Tales of the City of God, Valles)

The Second Vatican Council said: While the mind is at a loss before the mystery of death, the Church, taught by Divine Revelation, declares that God has created us in view of a blessed destiny that lies beyond the limits of this sad state on earth. (Gaudium et Spes, #18.)

Brothers and Sisters, this is our faith, and for this reason Jesus said: In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. As we continue to celebrate this Easter Season, let us pray that our faith may be strengthened and we truly believe that, we are not created to remain down here forever. Let us wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ!

Let us also reflect upon these words of St. Thérèse of Lisieux: In moments of great grief, one feels the need to look up to heaven; there they are not weeping, but all are joyful because our Lord has one more among his elect…all are in the rapture of divine ecstasy, they marvel that we can give the name of death to the commencement of life.