In St. John’s Gospel this Sunday Jesus declares:
“In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places . . .”
and “. . . I am going to prepare a place for you.”
These words are found in the 14th Chapter of John (1- 12); it is one of the most frequently chosen passages for funeral masses and one of my favorites personally. Jesus’ words are words of assurance and they are consummately personal—A PLACE FOR YOU! This is exciting! For myself, since Jesus knows me better than anyone else, I imagine that my dwelling place will be a three-bedroom, two-bath, with a balcony from which I can watch at least three forms of transportation (preferably trains, planes, and ships) – and with walking distance to Wienerschnitzel. (Jesus, if you REALLY love me!) I think I’m kidding.
Perhaps a closer examination of the readings offered this Sunday might shed more light on Jesus’ good news declarations. Well, the passage from the Acts of the Apostles is sort of the first ministry fair as “reputable men filled with the Spirit and wisdom” are called to assume some of the tasks of faith community service—behold the creation of deacons. Then Saint Peter, in our second reading expands on the call to be faith community in Christ by saying: “like living stones, let yourselves be built up into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God.” (Note: So far, no mention of my heavenly dwelling place. Seems to be more about still living here rather than there.)
Indeed! The scriptures today are leading us to the great feast of PENTECOST and the BIRTHDAY OF THE CHURCH. The Word of God is leading us to belonging to HIM—The Stone that the builders rejected that has become the cornerstone—and belonging to one another—a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own. Peter’s words of “becoming living stones” are spoken with urgency (almost no time to think about my heavenly real estate now). The trouble is that we seem to think of everything as urgent these days—and often, everything except being Church.
However, that is exactly Peter’s point. It IS urgent that we be Church now—God’s priestly people. I think we would all agree that the status of the Church and the world is crying out for the Body of Christ to heal, redeem, save, and resurrect. We make no mistake, healing all our divisions alone requires blood, sweat and tears. Like Thomas and Philip, to get the job done we must live our conviction that the Spirit of the Father and the Son lives on in us and empowers us. Jesus is the cornerstone and we are living stones with him; he is the vine and we are his branches. What is more, just think of St. Rita as his local branch in Sierra Madre. If we do this, then we can live and be joyous in the knowledge that “he has gone before us to prepare a place for us . . . so that where he is we also may be.”
See you there!