Do any of us not keep in the depth of our hearts, a nagging longing for a place called ‘home’ – a haven of peace and rest – a place where we can recover from life’s storms, a place where we can truly be ourselves? Sometimes, we come across a place like that in the mountains or by the sea, and we probably say to ourselves ‘If only I could stay here; it would be so beautiful and good’. Then we realise that it’s not possible. Maybe its part of a National Park or it is privately owned. Besides, we would probably never be able to afford to buy it even if we could! So … back to reality we come! When it is all said and done, we come back to the old saying…’Home, sweet Home’.
I must say, that is exactly how I feel: – ‘there is NO PLACE LIKE HOME!’
Jesus makes us a promise in today’s Gospel … and it’s not ‘Too good to be true’ … it’s for real. He says to us, ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God still, and trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s House. If there were not, I should have told you. I am now going to prepare a place for you …’
We frequently make promises. Just recently for instance, we renewed our Baptismal promises at Easter and we made resolutions at New Year. We might even promise ourselves that as from today, it will be the end of eating chocolate! It puts on weight! What do we do when we have those inner cravings for sweets as we pass the shelves of lollies in the Supermarket? (As we say in Australia and the UK.) Sweets or Candy in the supermarket in other places of the world. Whether we give in, or walk on by, depends on the seriousness of the promises that we have made. If we really want to carry them out we will do so, even if it’s not easy, provided that the ultimate goal is worthwhile. However, when the chips are down, if we really WANT to do it, we will! We can read all we like about diets, but that won’t take off the Pounds and Ounces!
In the Gospel passage today, we hear the promise made by Jesus which assures us that we are all worthwhile, and that we are all precious in God’s sight. In fact, as we hear in the Old Testament Isaiah 43:1b, ‘I have called you by name, you are mine.’ This acknowledgement by God, of His love for us, is the very basis on which Jesus makes all His promises. That basis is love … and trust. It is also the basis for all the serious promises we make in our personal relationships, in our relationship with the Church, and for the commitment that we make to love and serve one another.
The discussions which take place in the Gospel between Thomas, Philip and the Lord, are so like our own conversations with Jesus. We all look at a map for the right road to take if we are going somewhere unfamiliar. However, this is all made easier with our modern GPS in car systems! Jesus says that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life! Jesus is our GPS system! Like last Sunday’s Gospel, we must be good listeners!! Like Philip however, we still look for more identifying signs. ‘Lord, let us see the Father and then we shall be satisfied.’ To which Jesus answers ‘To have seen me is to have seen the Father’. Yes, it’s all about seeing … not only with the eyes, but with one’s whole being. Faith is therefore born from being known and loved by God. We can only know and love God if we really want to, and if are ready for the surprises that God has in store for us, along the road of life. It’s only when we stop, look and listen to God’s presence that we can truly say, as the Apostles said on the Emmaus Road ‘Did not our hearts become inflamed, as He broke open the Word and Broke Bread with us’.
Now, so far in this realhomilie we have been really only water skiing over the waves and ripples of the Scriptures; let go deep sea diving!
The Fourth Gospel Community who put together this version of the Good News, prepared it for a Greek audience. That being the case, when it is read in the original Greek, there are certain words that stand out in neon lights at us. There is also the structure of a dramatic dialogue, which would captivate the listeners! This Menu of contents and delivery is all about listening, it’s about seeing through listening, and it is about seeing the saving hand of God at work in Jesus. It is also about looking back after many decades since the Resurrection of Christ to see through the eyes and hearts of deep listening to know that Jesus IS the human face of the Father, and after His Resurrection he was the ‘I AM’ of the Lord God! The Divine Name personified in Jesus, the Christ!
Let’s go back to the first part of the Gospel: ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled etc……’ In that first paragraph, Jesus says, ‘ I am now going to prepare a place for you…….a bit further down He says, ‘so that where I am, you may be too.’ If we were in the audience of listeners to this passage as we heard it in Greek, these two sentences would really tell us who Jesus is? He is one with the, ‘I am who am’ in the Book of Exodus, Chapter 3. This recurring theme in John’s Gospel would be gradually sinking into our minds and hearts; it is the full and complete identity of Jesus Christ. So, in this first paragraph of the Gospel, Jesus, the human face of the Father desires all of us to reside where God lives! Remember, the great St. Augustine of Hippo, said…’That my heart will not be at rest until it rests in thee.’ After a great deal of human/spiritual experience, we would all agree that the North African Saint, was, ‘spot on’.
In the next paragraph, in answer to Thomas’ question, Jesus again says, ‘I am, the Way the Truth and the Life’. That sentence of Jesus is packed with Biblical meaning, which goes right back to the Creation story in Genesis. But, let’s not forget Chapter 1 of John’s Gospel…….My O My, that is a new Genesis version of God’s creative Word. Why not have a coffee break, and then look up Chapter 1 of John’s Gospel, and read it ever so slowly, so that the nuances can jump out at you!
Briefly, The Lord God throughout the Old Testament, has led His people (Israel) at all times. Even when Israel lost their way in the Sinai Desert, the Lord God still showed them His loving kindness through the Manna, and the water at Meribah! The Lord God speaks the TRUTH about all things at all times, therefore through embracing THE WAY of God as traced through the Old Testament, and adhering to the TRUTH of the Lord God, this combination in turn gives us LIFE! Real life! Let us also remember that the early Christian Community were called, THE WAY!
Finally in the concluding request of Philip in today’s extract, we hear the timeless question……’Let us see the Father!’ Here we grasp the Johannine community coming to grips with this question for people in their own time, but for all ages……’To have seen me, is to see the Father’ ‘I am in the Father, and the Father is in me.’ Now, this takes a bit of time to get our heads around this, but let’s not forget that WE ARE the living Body of Christ! So therefore, to see Christ in each other, opens the opportunity for us, hopefully, to see the Father’s creative, redeeming and sanctifying nature at work! Is this all too good to be true????? The short answer in NO! The imperfections that we carry within us, also gives us the opportunity to seek forgiveness, and receive another very important attribute of God……His mercy!
As you can appreciate, this is a very powerful Gospel message for us, and that these post Easter Readings are necessary for us to contemplate, to feed on, and act on…..which is living life to the fullest! That in a nutshell it is the end and goal of Humanity……..we are all en route to our Heavenly HOME, SWEET HOME!
May the promises made to us by God in Jesus, strengthen our promise to love and serve God in our brothers and sisters …
Fr Kevin Walsh