Homily for Mass Preceding the 13th American Cardinals Dinner
At the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Philadelphia
By the Very Rev. David M. O’Connell, C.M.
President, The Catholic University of America
April 26, 2002
Your Eminences, your Excellencies, my dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled.” Jesus says that to us today in the Gospel with all the love and compassion that he had for those first disciples. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Have faith in God. Have faith in me.”
It can be difficult – indeed it is difficult in the midst of painful human experiences, even in the midst of human error – to hear these words, to understand their meaning and to embrace them as the Gospel intends.
All of us as Catholics, regardless of our status or station within the Church, have been shaken in recent weeks and months by the revelation of things so far beyond our imagination that they seem incomprehensible. And they are. And they should be incomprehensible to us, although they are as real as they are difficult to accept.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled.”
As Jesus spoke to his disciples in the Gospel of John, he was preparing them for his own death, an event also unimaginable and incomprehensible to them. “I am going to prepare a place for you,” he told them. “And then I shall come back to take you with me. You know the way.”
Jesus was also preparing them for the crosses that they were to carry, even unto death.
Jesus knew his disciples well enough to know that even the prediction of his passing would send them into a tailspin. “We do not know where you are going,” they protested. “How can we know the way?” His answer was simple. His answer was clear. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me.”
There was darkness ahead for Jesus. There was humiliation and unspeakable suffering in his future. We hear in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, “even though they found no charge against him that deserved death, they begged Pilate to have him executed.” Jesus was to face physical destruction. But for him, the moment of his greatest weakness and exposure to the effects of sin would become the moment of his greatest display of power. In the nakedness and shame of the cross, he clothed us all with redemption and fullness of life.
We hear the Gospel, all of us in this Basilica, removed in time by thousands of years and the words still sound in our ears, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Have faith in God. Have faith in Me. I am the way.”
The Gospel is reassuring today. And, at the same time, it presents to us a call and a challenge that reaches into the most profound and very deepest parts of our being: “Have faith in God. Have faith in Me. Do not let your hearts be troubled.”
We need to remember, especially in difficult times, that faith, as the letter to the Hebrews tells us, is “confident assurance about things we hope for and conviction about things we do not yet see.”
The night always gives way to the dawn. The darkness always gives way to the light. And, in our faith we know that the cross always gives way to the resurrection. Jesus is the way. And our hearts are not troubled because his way leads us who believe, who have faith in God and faith in Him, to a vision of something larger than ourselves, stronger than the apparent claims of our weakest moments. His way leads us to a suffering that cleanses us of sin and bathes us in grace. His way leads us from a confusion that pleads “We do not know where you are going,” to the clarity that responds “To the Father through Me.”
In this Easter season, when we continue to encounter the risen Jesus, who is the way, the truth, and the life, listen with the greatest attention at every moment, in every suffering, in every joy, to the voice of him who says to us all “I am the way. Do not let your hearts be troubled.”
Revised: Feb. 18, 2002
All contents copyright © 2001.
The Catholic University of America,
Office of Public Affairs.