16th May. Friday in Week 4 of Easter
Saint Brendan, abbot.
Brendan of Clonfert (484-578) is a sixth-century Celtic saint, monastic founder, abbot, Patron of Kerry and hero of legendary voyages fare into the Atlantic Ocean.
First Reading: Acts 13:26-33
(Paul explains how Jesus was put to death, but raised and exalted by God.)
“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
(In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.)
“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.”
The many rooms in God’s House
It was so good to hear pope Francis saying some months back that the doors of our church must be wide open and welcoming. This welcome message is a fine antidote to a narrower, more legalistic functioning of our church, where the barriers to eucharistic communion were constantly repeated and the borders sharply defined between which groups of Christians could be properly called a “church”. Today we can resonate to those Last Supper words of Jesus which are central to our faith: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” In some mysterious way, to be seeking is already to be found, to be on the way is to have arrived, to be reaching out to Jesus means that we are being sought by him. He draws us even before we feel inclined to look for him. The flower is touched by sunlight before it turns toward the sun. For a Christian, to be always on the way means to be always seeking to incarnate the attitudes of 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 the epistle Paul roams through the Hebrew Bible, beginning with the patriarchs and Moses and ending with John the Baptist, who pointed to Jesus. Some of this was in yesterday’s reading. Now, in the second half of his sermon at Pisidian Antioch, Paul directly addresses the situation of his hearers. He turns from the words of Scripture, inscribed in a book, to those same words as spoken by the living God. Everything in Scripture, he maintains, can be read in the light of Jesus who gives each statement its full meaning. He moves from the book to a person, calling us to move from merely formal doctrine to bear personal witness to Jesus. We are “on the way” as we move from creedal affirmations (definitions about the divinity of Jesus) to living in company with the Jesus who speaks to our hearts. We are also on “the way,” strangely enough, when sin or misfortune forces us out into a desolate place. Even in times of turmoil for the church, we can be fruitfully “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’ whole life on earth.