4th May. Friday of the 4th Week of Easter
Acts 13:26ff. Paul explains how Jesus was put to death, but raised and exalted by God.
John 14:1ff. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.
Finding Room in our Father’s House
So long as we live on this fascinating and challenging planet earth, we have not yet arrived at our final destination, which we Christians believe is one beyond imagining. “Here we have no lasting city,” wrote one thoughtful, early disciple, “but we seek one that is to come” (Heb 13:14). While our Gospels accept that earth and even our entire solar system can finally disintegrate, they ask us to attend to the ephemeral, ever changing circumstances of our individual lives, so as the change our society for the better, and thereby prepare for eternity. We are always pilgrims on the way, seeking and looking beyond, following a vision which Jesus has shared with us. No sooner do we master the situation of being a child than we are growing into youth; just as soon as we emerge from the awkwardness of youth, we have passed into adulthood, with its new set of capacities and responsibilities. “Here we have no lasting city” … for we are always on the journey.
This situation of constant change can be exciting for younger people with few cares and with good physical health and emotional expansiveness, able to move easily from one focus to another, from one person to another. Yet, for an older person, with commitments to marriage, religious life, priesthood or career, with a more settled disposition and less spontaneity, it can be daunting to be always on the way, always having to leave something or someone behind in favour of someone or something new.
Here we are consoled by the Last Supper words of Jesus: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” In some deep and mysterious way, to be seeking is already to be found, to be on the way is to have arrived, to be straining our hope towards Jesus means that we have already been found by him. He is attracting us before we feel inclined to look for him. The flower is found by sunlight before it turns toward the sun. For a Christian, to be always on the way means to be seeking Jesus. We want to follow his will for peace, forgiveness, justice and compassion ever more totally in our daily life. In each step forward we find him closer to ourselves in his personal love and attraction.
In today’s epistle Paul roams through the Hebrew Bible, beginning with the patriarchs and Moses and ending with John the Baptist, who heralded Jesus. The earlier part of this was seen in yesterday’s reading. Now, in the latter part of the same speech at Pisidian Antioch, Paul hones in upon the congregation immediately before him. Note how he swivels from the words of Scripture, inscribed in a book, to those same words as spoken by the living God. Everything in Scripture, Paul maintains, can be read in the light of Jesus who gives each statement its ultimate meaning. To go from words to a person, calls us to move from the written doctrine to bear personal witness to those words. The process leads from the intellect to the will, from the mental effort to understand, to a volitional, emotional, personal response. Scripture becomes a springboard for contemplation, when in silent ecstasy we become lost in the wonder of Jesus’ love and in an understanding beyond clear and precise ideas. Elsewhere Paul wrote about this “love which surpasses all knowledge” (Eph 3:19).
We are “on the way” as we move from the words of Scripture to God or to His Son Jesus who speaks those words. We are also on “the way,” strangely enough, when human sin or ignorance forces us out of our well-ordered plans into a desolate place – the words used in Deuteronomy for the way of the exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land! (Deut 1:19; 2:7). Even in times of turmoil for the Church, we can still be “on the way,” with Jesus. Just as there are many mansions in the Father’s house, so the ways that lead to those mansions are many and varied. The only absolute guideline Jesus gives about staying on the track with him is always couched in terms of love, that agapé which was the hallmark of Jesus himself, here on earth.
First Reading: Acts 13:26-33
“My brothers, you descendants of Abraham’s family, and others who fear God, to us the message of this salvation has been sent. Because the residents of Jerusalem and their leaders did not recognize him or understand the words of the prophets that are read every sabbath, they fulfilled those words by condemning him. Even though they found no cause for a sentence of death, they asked Pilate to have him killed. When they had carried out everything that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead; and for many days he appeared to those who came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, and they are now his witnesses to the people. And we bring you the good news that what God promised to our ancestors he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising Jesus; as also it is written in the second Psalm, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you.’
Gospel: John 14:1-6
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”