Reflection for the 5th Sunday of Easter (Year A)
Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.
The trouble with trouble is that it comes with others. It often comes with other relations and companions. For instance, finding a remedy to trouble is often trouble itself. Another trouble with trouble is that it does not respect rank, status, gender, location, or even religion.
You can tell there is trouble where there is a lack, obstacle, or conflict between two or more realities. But there is good news. First, every trouble has a remedy. Another is that every trouble offers an opportunity for learning and growth for those who get it!
The Welfare Challenge in the Early Church
The First Reading of this Fifth Sunday of Easter (Acts 6:1-7) tells us about a troubling scandal in the early church community. We call it a scandal because the nature of the challenge contradicted an important character of the community founded on the foreground of love.
We heard that God gave the early Church geometric growth, which also came with a disturbing development regarding the welfare of members. The Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were neglected in the daily food distribution.
To put perspective on the two groups mentioned, The Hellenists were Jews who adopted the Greek language and culture. In contrast, the Hebrews are those Jews who held on only to the Jewish language and culture and so considered themselves more original than the Hellenists.
The partiality in the sharing was not just directed at the Hellenists as a group but at the widows among them, which makes the situation more odious and uncharitable. The obtrusion of this ungodly event in the heart of the early Christian community was a challenging problem for the early Church.
To solve the problem, the apostles consulted the Holy Spirit, and afterward, they appointed seven men with proven character and filled the Spirit and wisdom to manage the distribution system. This led to the birth of the office of deacons. Among them was Stephen, a holy and righteous man who would later become the first to die for his faith in Jesus Christ.
The Reality of Problems and the Prescriptions of Christ
In the Gospel Reading of this Sunday (John 14:1-12), Jesus made this definitive statement to his disciples: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.
The First thing we see in this statement is that trouble is a possibility in life. Jesus said in another place: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).
The question is: “What do you do when life confronts you with troubles?” Obviously, people have various response abilities when it comes to troubles.
Do not be Troubled by Trouble: Jesus tells us that the first thing to do is not to be troubled by trouble. That means we should be calm. The Psalmist (46:10) says: “Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations; I am exalted in the earth.”
Have faith in God: Fear is the flip side of faith. To be unshaken in the face of trouble is at the service of faith in realizing who you are and who is with you. In the Second Reading (1 Peter 2:4-9), St. Peter said, among other things: “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.”
Follow the Way: In life, there are many ways, but there is “the way.” Recall that when John the Baptist resounded the oracle of the Prophet Isaiah, he said, “Prepare the way of the Lord, and make His paths straight.” So likewise, in the Gospel passage today, Jesus declared: “I am the way!” In other words, when there is trouble, Jesus provides the way out; without him, we can do nothing (John 15:5).
Seek the Truth: We live in a world that is seething with many lies, often orchestrated by the protocols of the father of lies, the devil (John 8:44). Often trouble arises because the truth is attacked, like in the early Church incidence Seeking the truth is another of applying for freedom. Our Lord Jesus Christ would say: “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32).
Seek the Life: There is such a thing as life in God, just as there is life outside the ambiance of God. When Jesus said, “I am the life,” he meant that life can only find full expression when lived in alignment with him. Recall that he said: “I have come to that so that they may have life in abundance,” in contrast to the thief who comes to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10).
When troubles come, seek life in God, not in anyone or anything mundane. Recall what St. Paul said to the Galatians (2:20) “I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
Moving Forward: God will trouble Your Troubles.
God never promised us a life without troubles. They will surely come in various times and seasons. However, we have the divine assurance that God will be with us in our troubles and even contend with the things that contend with us (Isaiah 49:25).
We should strive not to be the channels of trouble like those neglecting the Hellenist widows in the early church. We should rather strive to overcome troubles with genuine love, service, and dedication like the apostles and the deacons who brought a remedy; may we not be trouble builders but trouble remedies.
God bless you and have a blissful week ahead.