6th Sunday of Easter (C)
Picture: cc EU Civil Protection & Humanitarian Aid
My dear friends, are there any homemakers among us this evening? What does it mean to be a home-maker? For me, the word brings to mind someone – usually a woman – who stays home seeing to house chores and caring for children. But is that all? We know that, more than just a solid roof over the head – important as that is – a home is also meant to be a safe refuge, a healing haven, for the tired and sometimes broken heart. A place to find true rest and peace. But how do we make and maintain such a precious place?
This is the question that the scriptures invite us to ponder. And it’s helpful to begin with the second reading, which offers a stirring description of the heavenly Jerusalem, the holy city, our eternal home. At its periphery, the city is surrounded by high walls and twelve gates. So that it is not only safe and secure, but also accessible and welcoming. At the centre of the city, where we might expect the temple to be located, we find instead the reassuring presence and radiant glory of the Lord God Almighty, and of the Lamb.
High walls for protection, hospitable gates for inclusion, and the glory of God and of his Christ for illumination. This is what our heavenly home, our final destination, looks like. But how do we get there? In the gospel, the Lord shows us the way. It begins with an encounter and an ever deepening relationship with Jesus himself. A loving relationship, cultivated by keeping the Lord’s word, and resulting in an experience of home-coming. If anyone loves me he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make our home with him. This presence of God – Father, Son and Spirit – in the heart brings a deep peace, which the world cannot give. A peace that is more a gift to be claimed and safeguarded, than a wage to be earned, or a prize to be won.
And this gift of peace is not just an individual experience. It is also meant for the whole church. In the first reading, during a time of crisis and conflict, occasioned by the spread of unauthorised and false teaching, the apostles and elders gather to seek God’s guidance. Then, through chosen delegates, these vigilant leaders at the centre extend to the vulnerable gentile Christians at the periphery protection, inclusion and illumination, encouragement and peace.
My dear friends, I’m not sure if you’ll agree with me, but I believe our experience of home is under considerable stress. Much as the pandemic may have brought some families closer, it has also been a trial for many others, particularly the more vulnerable. Blurring the crucial line between work and rest, aggravating mental and emotional fragilities, and heightening hidden familial dysfunctions. In our local church too, hasn’t the recent news of abuses from the past caused some of us to wonder how safe our ecclesial home really is?
Sisters and brothers, at a time when many are yearning for a renewed experience of home, what must we do to become better home-makers, for ourselves and for our families, for our church and for our world today?