A reflection for the fifth Sunday of Easter

Father Stan Chu Ilo reflects on the readings for May 7, 2023.
Catholic Voices

Readings (Year A):

Acts 6:1 – 7
Psalms 33:1 – 2, 4 – 5, 18 – 19
1 Peter 2:4 – 9
John 14:1 – 12

Reflection: Be God’s presence in the world

“The film biography of Archbishop Oscar Romeo of San Salvador, Romero, opens with a cleric, Romero, who has recently become archbishop and is friendly with the rich and important families of El Salvador’s oligarchy. Romero is transformed when his friend, the Jesuit Rutilio Grande, is assassinated for standing up for the poor. He experiences a conversion to the gospel of social justice for the poor and oppressed. Later in the film, one of Romero’s rich friends comes and asks him to baptize her baby. He is delighted. She suggests a Sunday in December and he says, “Wonderful, that’s a very popular time; there will be a lot of people coming to be baptized.” She tells him they were hoping for a private baptism. “We don’t do that,” he responds. “You mean you want me to baptize my baby with a bunch of Indians?” He nods his head, and she says, “You have deserted us.”

How many times have you thought of yourself as superior to others? How many times have you felt that other people—especially the poor, the sick, the migrants, prisoners—do not belong? How many people are dying because they live in abject poverty, in polluted slums where kids dance on human waste, and play in garbage dumps? How many of God’s children are starving, dying in wars, and hanging on to a bare existence in a world built on structural injustice, inequality, and destructive economic and political systems?

The readings today offer three important messages on how to create better and caring communities where God is found. We are invited to embrace the example of the early Christian communities:


The first message is about our identity. In the second reading Peter writes with power and beauty about our identity as children of God: “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own so that you may announce of the praises of him who calls you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

Peter also writes that we are a spiritual house, anchored on Jesus who is its pillar and foundation. This text helps us understand being grafted in Christ. The Christian is not their own; my life belongs to God. We are united with Christ in an intimate and unbreakable bond of love which also unites us with God and each other. Your life is not an accident; God knows you. God has loved you from all eternity, walks with you, lives in you, and leads you on the way. Jesus is inviting you to follow him with trust, faith, and hope.

But there is another important message here: This offer of being a child of God is not exclusive to you alone or to your race, religion, or social class. God is speaking to every human being. The central message of the Christian faith which bears repeating today is that our God is a unity of persons, a community of love in a social bond of reciprocity, mutuality, solidarity, and service.

 Each of us made in the image and likeness of God is united in the family of God. By virtue of this, you share a kinship with all human beings and all creation. We are a common humanity; we share one human family because we all belong. We cannot consider any person a stranger or be untouched by the suffering and needs of others. The Son of God can be encountered in many ways, but he has given us the poor, the sick, the dying, the wounded, and the worried as his point of contact. They are God’s ambassadors to us.


 The early church recognized this link between faith in God and seeing and responding to the pain and suffering of those forgotten and invisible in the church and society. The early Christian community cared for all the members of the community, especially the poor and widows. They took care of the weak, the victims of injustice, and those oppressed in their society, because this was their central mission. In the first reading, we are shown how the early church created a special ministry to take care of the poor. Our ancestors in the faith were innovative in finding pastoral solutions to the problems faced by the poor, the sick, widows, and those suffering among them. Are we doing the same in our churches?

The church is called to be the sign of God’s presence in the world. It is called to find new ways of reaching out to the sick, the lonely, and the abandoned in the world today. The church is being called to serve all humanity in a spirit of love and with total commitment, in a radical and heroic way, like the early church did. People are dying today because they feel that no one cares for them or that their lives do not matter. May we all find a way to be with those who suffer, and show them the way, the truth, and the life of Christ.

When Jesus invites us not to be troubled, I think he knew that if we embodied the self-sacrificing and compassionate love of God, the troubles of the world would be less threatening and burdensome, and we would behold the glory of God and enjoy glimpses of heaven. When Jesus says he is the way, the truth, and the life, he is inviting us to walk the way of love with him. Walking this way, we can see the truth of who God is and who we are in God. In walking the way of love, we experience the abundant life the Father offers us through the Son.    


About the author

Father Stan Chu Ilo

Father Stan Chu Ilo is a priest of Awgu Diocese, Nigeria and a research professor of World Christianity and African Studies at the Center for World Catholicism and Intercultural Theology at DePaul University in Chicago. His latest book is Someone Beautiful to God: Finding the Light of Faith in a Wounded World (Paulist Press). He has preached retreats and facilitated spiritual renewal seminars for parishes, Catholic groups, clergy, and religious in North America, Europe, and Africa.

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