Thursday, April 21, 2016

A Forever Home

By Colleen O’Sullivan

We ourselves are proclaiming this good news to you that what God promised our fathers he has brought to fulfillment for us, their children, by raising up Jesus.  (Acts 13:32-33a)

Jesus said to his disciples:  “Do not let your hearts be troubled.  You have faith in God; have faith also in me.  In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.  If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.”  (John 14:1-3)

Lord, I pray that you will always be the way I choose to go, the truth which illumines every nook and cranny of my being, and the life I seek to share.

Last Friday, almost four months to the day since my father’s death, my sister and I met at our family home of 59 years for the last time.  She had worked tirelessly all last summer and fall to empty the house.  Over the winter, repairs and renovations had been made.   The house had been on the market for just one day when there were two offers, one of which we accepted.  We were making this stop on the way to the settlement.

My sister wanted to walk through the rooms one more time and she insisted that I accompany her.  I wasn’t sure I really wanted to go in, but it was the last chance to do so before the new owner took possession.  It didn’t feel one bit like the home I grew up in.  Wallpaper had been removed and the odor of new paint permeated every room.  The colors were changed.  New hardwood floors.  New light fixtures.  It all looked very nice, but it didn’t feel like home.

“House” and “home” are not interchangeable words.  A foundation, four walls, and a roof do not add up to a home.  A home is more about the people who live in the house and their relationships with one another than the structure in which they reside.  My parents’ house did not feel like home last Friday.  It was empty.  Truth be told, it had never felt quite like home once my mother died 4½ years ago.

I pondered this as I read today’s Gospel, part of Jesus’ farewell discourse after the Last Supper.  I think we have a difficult time coming up with the precise word(s) to translate/describe what Jesus is promising.  (Once, in a hotel in Switzerland, my sister and I were looking for something to do while her small children slept.  We picked up the Bible, which was in German, and happened to read the very passage we’re looking at today.  The word used to describe the place Jesus is preparing for us was the exact same word used in everyday vernacular for an apartment.  We laughed at the mental image of high rises in heaven.  Yet that is so not what I think this passage is about.)  Jesus is offering us much more than merely a new address on the other side of death.  Jesus is inviting us to share God’s home, made a home by the love God has for us and the love we share with God and all God’s children.  Jesus is inviting us to be his forever family.  St. Augustine, in his Confessions, says our hearts are restless until they find rest in God, and Jesus is offering us eternal peace and rest with him and the other persons of the Trinity.

Jesus is extending an offer and an invitation, not anything that will ever be forced on us.  As Jesus explains to Thomas, who protests that no one knows the way to get wherever the Lord is going, he himself is the way to this life.   So, how wrapped up is your life in Jesus’ way?  How is your prayer life?   What are you doing on earth to extend God’s love to others, especially the poor and the poor in spirit?

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