Sunday, May 13, 2018

The Way Home


7th Sunday of Easter
(World Social Communications Sunday)

Readings: Acts 1:15-17,20-26; Psalm 102(103);1-2,11-12,19-20; 1 John 4:11-16; John 17:11-19
Picture: cc ebenette

My dear friends, do you know how parents decide when the time is right to allow their kids to go out on their own? I’m sure there are parents among us here this morning. How do you decide? Are there particular signs that you look out for? Well, I don’t have any children of my own, but if I did, I think one minimum requirement I might set, before allowing them to go out on their own, would be that they must first know the way back home. Which is reasonable to expect, right? Otherwise, they’ll just go out and get lost.

Before going out on one’s own, one should first know the way back home. It’s good to bear this in mind today, because it can help us understand what’s going on in the gospel. As you may recall, the story takes place at the Last Supper. After having washed his disciples’ feet in chapter 13, and then giving them a long farewell speech till the end of chapter 16, here in chapter 17, Jesus offers a prayer to his heavenly Father, for all his disciples, including us. What does Jesus ask for? Only one thing, really. But expressed in at least 3 different ways…

Holy Father, keep those you have given me true to your name… protect them from the evil one… Consecrate them in the truth… To be kept true to the Father’s name… To be protected from the evil one… To be consecrated in the truth… What does all this mean? What does it look like when disciples are consecrated in truth? When we are protected from the evil one? When we remain true to God’s name?

To answer this question, it may be helpful to remember again that Jesus offers this prayer just before he leaves his disciples to go to the Father. In a way, the Lord’s situation in the gospel is not unlike that of a parent about to let his children go out into the world on their own. Before doing this, the one thing the parent wants to ensure is that the kids know the way back home. Isn’t this what Jesus is asking for? Isn’t this what the word truth is meant to signify?

To be consecrated in the truth is to know the way back home. Indeed, it is to remain at home, to remain in the presence of God, even while we may be roaming about in the world. And Jesus has already indicated earlier, in chapters 13 and 14, just how this is done. By first washing his disciples’ feet, a symbol of his own loving sacrifice on the Cross, and asking them to follow his example. And then, by telling them that he, Jesus himself, is the way, the truth, and the life. To be on the Way home, to be consecrated in the Truth, is simply to follow Jesus, the fullness of Life. To first allow him to wash my feet, and to let that deeply intimate and personal experience move me to then go out and wash the feet of others. To lovingly lay down my life for them. Just as the Lord has laid down his life for me. To love as Jesus loves. This is the way for us to remain at home.

Isn’t this also what the second reading tells us, when it says that God is love and anyone who lives in love lives in God, and God lives in him? So that it doesn’t matter even if I may be wandering about in the world. After all, where else can I go? As long as I continue receiving and returning God’s love, by loving others, I am actually always already on the Way home.

Which may help us to understand what may be the deeper meaning in the first reading. When Peter asks the community to choose someone to replace Judas, he sets only one requirement. The candidate must have been with us the whole time that the Lord Jesus was travelling round with us… until the day when he was taken up from us… At one level, this may mean simply what it says. That the candidate must have been physically present the whole time that Jesus was with us. But, as you know, physical presence alone is not enough. What is more important is spiritual presence. Presence rooted in God’s love. The kind of presence that Jesus is asking the Father in the gospel to grant us. After all, Judas too was physically present. And yet, he became lost. He abandoned his post to go to his proper place. He was unable to make his way home.

Before going out on one’s own, it’s crucially important that we first know the way home. But that’s not all. As you may have noticed, our readings are not just about how we can go out into the world and return safely home. They also speak about something else. Both in the first and second readings a particular reason is given for us to know the way home. We ourselves saw & we testify that the Father sent his Son as saviour of the world… It’s not just for our own benefit. It’s not just for our own safety. But it is also so that we may bear witness, so that we may testify, before the whole world, to the love of God shown to us so powerfully, and yet so tenderly, in the Dying and Rising of Christ.

And isn’t this what should set Christian social communications apart from all other forms of publicity? For communications to be truly Christian, it’s not enough that we mention the name of Christ, or that we publicise Christian images. We can do all that and still bully people. The one requirement for truly Christian social communications is that it always remain rooted in the truth of God’s love shown to us in Christ. That it testify constantly to that love. Not just in what it contains, but also in how it is carried out. So that it always remains capable of showing others the Way home.

My dear sisters and brothers, whether we like it or not, we all live and communicate in the world. We cannot avoid that. The important question we need to keep asking ourselves is, do we, do I, really know, the way home?

Well, do you?

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