Sunday, May 22, 2011

5th Sunday of Easter (A)
Disturbances and Dwelling-Places

Readings: Acts 6:1-7; Psalm 33:1-2, 4-5, 18-19; 1 Peter 2:4-9; John 14:1-12
Picture: cc frozbeats

Sisters and brothers, do you like disturbances? I don’t. I like peace and quiet. I like it when my home is neat and tidy, when everything is in its rightful place. I don’t like it, for example, when I enter the restroom and find that the toilet roll has been used up and nobody has bothered to replace it. Disturbances like that are inconvenient. I don’t like disturbances. Sometimes I wish that there were no disturbances in my life.

Which is why, it’s important for someone like me to remember that disturbances can also be very necessary and important too. Think of this beautiful church of ours, for example. Think of how and why it came to be built. Remember how we felt when the beloved old church was torn down. Remember also the disturbance we had to endure when this new church was being built. For many Sundays we had to worship in a tent. And, where once there stood a House of God, there was in its place only the noise and dust of construction. Why did we put ourselves through such inconvenience? Was it because we like disturbances? No. We went through the trouble of building a new church because our community was growing in number, and the old church could no longer accommodate everyone. The main reason why we chose to endure the disturbance of construction was so that we could make space for more people.

Enduring disturbance to make space for others. This is also what we find in our first reading today. While the earlier chapters of the Acts of the Apostles tell us about how peaceful and united the early Christian community was, today, in chapter 6, we find a disturbance. The Greek-speaking Jewish Christians are complaining that their widows are being left out of the daily distribution of food. What to do? Well, if the apostles were as allergic to disturbances as I am, they might have been tempted to do nothing. They might have said something like: We are very busy people. We have been chosen by God to preach the Good News. Don’t bother us with such trivial matters. But, thankfully, the apostles are not like me. They don’t say such things. Instead, they take the trouble to overhaul the structure of the community. They commission a group of leaders to take care of the needs of those who have been neglected. They endure the disturbance so as to make space for others.

And by doing this, they were building up the church. Of course, they were not building a physical structure, like we did with this new worship space. But still, they were building in some way. In the words of the second reading, the early Christians were allowing themselves to be living stones being built into a spiritual house. Through their willingness to endure disturbance so as to make space for those in need, they were offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God in Jesus Christ. They were building upon the foundation, the cornerstone, that is Jesus Christ.

For this is also what we find Jesus himself doing in the gospel. Today we read from chapter 14 of John’s gospel. The scene is the Last Supper. Jesus has just washed his disciples feet. Judas has left the room to betray his Master. Soon, in chapter 18, Jesus will be arrested and sentenced to death. But before that happens, here in chapter 14, Jesus begins his long farewell speech. He  comforts his disciples and explains to them his reason for going to his death. Do not let your hearts be troubled, he tells them. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.... 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. Jesus willingly undergoes the disturbance of the Cross so as to make space for us in his Father’s house.

But that’s not all. In addition to telling us the reason for his going, Jesus also tells us how to follow him. I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. In other words, in order to get to the dwelling places that Jesus has prepared for us, we need to do what he has done. Like the early Christians in the first reading, we need to be willing to undergo disturbance in order to make space for others.

And it’s not just in the church that we need to do this. In society too, don’t we often see people who have been left out? Aren’t there many who desperately need us to disturb our lives in some way, just so that they may have the space to live? I’m reminded of the report in a recent issue of the Santa Barbara Independent, which told of how 350 volunteers gathered at the Earl Warren Showgrounds on a Sunday in February this year. They were being trained to interview homeless people, and to join a massive campaign to stem the rising tide of deaths by moving the sickest among (the homeless) directly into housing. It was also reported that many of these volunteers were slated to start their surveying at 4 a.m. the next day! I do not know how many of these volunteers are followers of Christ. Or, in the words of the gospel, I do not know how many of them have faith in the Lord, or even in God. But it does seem clear, doesn’t it, that what they were doing is something that a Christian is called to do. They were undergoing disturbance so that others might find a dwelling-place.

Sisters and brothers, might there be any disturbances waiting for you in your life today?

1 comment:

  1. Last night there was an evening of song presented by the Committee for Ecumenical Movement (ECM).
    Held at the Barker Road Methodist Church and participated by the host choirs and Mar Thoma Syrian Church, the Church of South India, and the youth choir of St. Ignatius.
    The mood reflects the celebration of unity - diverse, yet united as one. God is present in all - three persons in one body. Many parts and yet the same Christ.
    Singing lifts us into the depth of our core, putting aside all doctrines and prejudices.
    Last night was special and will remain so.

    ReplyDelete

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