FIFTH SUNDAY OF EASTER – Going home
INTRODUCTION AND CONFITEOR
Few of us know what it’s like to be homeless. Without a home where we belong and are loved, life loses most, if not all, of its meaning.
Jesus assures us that ultimately all of us have a home to go to, namely, the Father’s house. He even says that he has gone ahead of us to prepare a place for us in that house. What a tremendous reason for hope. [Pause]
I confess to almighty God …..
HEADINGS FOR READINGS
Now during those days, when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food.
And the twelve called together the whole community of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait on tables. Therefore, friends, select from among yourselves seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this task, while we, for our part, will devote ourselves to prayer and to serving the word.”
What they said pleased the whole community, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, together with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. They had these men stand before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
The word of God continued to spread; the number of the disciples increased greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.
Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in scripture: “See, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”
To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe, The stone that the builders rejected has become the very head of the corner,” and “A stone that makes them stumble, and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, “Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.
It is impossible to exaggerate the importance of a good home, especially in the life of a young person. In the ﬁrst place, to have a home is not just to have a house. It is to have close ties with other people. It is to have a set of relationships in which to stand. Ideally, it is to have people who accept us for what we are; people who give us a feeling of belonging; people among whom we are free to be ourselves, and who by accepting us bring us healing and peace. To be homeless is not just to have nowhere to go. It is to be wanted by nobody. It is only those who have some experience of homelessness who can appreciate the benefits of a good home.
Young Martin was tense with excitement, and we’ll soon see why. He felt he just had to talk to someone. He could no longer keep it all bottled up inside him. So he turned to the man who was sitting next to him on the train, a complete stranger, and told him his story.
He told him that he had just been released from a reformatory where he had spent three years for robbery and other crimes. While there he had undergone a complete change of heart. He now felt very bad about having let his family down, and wondered if they wanted him to return home. All the time he had been away, they had neither written to him nor come to see him. He tried to find reasons for this. His parents were practically illiterate. They were also very poor and would not have been able to afford the train fare to the reformatory which was a long way from home.
But he was hoping against hope that they had forgiven him and wanted him to come home. However, in order to make it easy for them, he had written to them. If they wanted him back into the family, they were to give him a sign.
Their house was close to the railway line. In the back garden grew an old apple tree. If they wanted him back, all they had to do was put up a white ribbon on the apple tree. If they didn’t, they were to do nothing. Then he would know for sure that they no longer cared about him and didn’t want him back. In this case he would have no home to go to, and would simply stay on the train until it reached the first large city. There, where he knew nobody and where nobody knew him, he would get lost.
As the train neared his house the suspense became so acute that Martin was unable to look out the window. So he asked the man to keep a look-out for him. The man gladly agreed to do so and kept his eyes open searching for the apple tree. After a while he touched Martin on the shoulder, and said: ‘Son, you’re all right. You do have a home to go to. Just take a look’.
Martin looked, and there before his eyes stood the old apple tree. It was wearing, not just one white ribbon, but a whole host of ribbons. Tears began to run down his face, and with those tears all the bitterness that had poisoned his young life up to this was washed away. The other man said later: ‘I felt I had just witnessed a miracle. I have rarely been so moved in all my life. I had never realised until that moment what it means for a young lad to have a home to go to, especially one where he knows he is welcome’.
To be without faith is to be homeless in the deepest sense of all. It means that one has no lasting home to go to. One has no one who can fully satisfy the restlessness of the heart. Without faith life is ultimately meaningless. It is like a journey that leads nowhere. A Swedish writer who committed suicide wrote: ‘Life to me appears to be a journey from one darkness to another’.
That’s why the words of Jesus which we ﬁnd in today’s Gospel should be sweet music to our ears, and should bring joy to our hearts. Jesus was about to die. He had no doubt about the meaning of his life. ‘It was from the Father that I came out when I entered this world, now I am on my way back to the Father’. In other words, he was going home. And then, what is even more wonderful from our point of View, he added: ‘In my Father’s house there are many rooms. I am going to prepare a place for you’.
We‘ve heard these words many times, especially at funerals. We should never let them in one ear and out the other. We should keep them always in our heart. For Christians life is a journey to the Father’s house. The saintly Pope John XXIII said when he was dying: ‘My bags are packed. I feel like a schoolboy going home for his holidays’.
This vision of faith shouldn’t stop us from trying to create better homes here on earth. By this I don’t mean that we should fill them up with every type of comfort and luxury. What we have to do is try to create within them a climate in which each person knows that he or she belongs and, come what may, is loved and wanted.
Nearly everybody likes to die at home, that is, among their friends. Why is this? Is it that they feel the need of a ﬁrm and friendly launching pad for the daunting journey to eternity? But then, is it so daunting? Is it not going from one home to another? And it’s nice to know that we have at least one person waiting there to welcome us – Christ, our Brother.
‘It is not miracles that generate faith, but faith that generates miracles’. (Dostoyevsky).
‘Compassion is not learned without suffering’. (Thomas Merton).
PRAYER OF THE FAITHFUL
Life is a journey, and death a home-coming to the Father‘s house. Let us pray that we may always see our lives in this light. R. Lead us home, Lord.
Christians journey through life, not alone, but as members of God’s pilgrim people: that they may always support and encourage one another along the way. [Pause] We pray to you, O Lord.
For all political leaders: that they may put their trust in God and not in mere human resources. [Pause] We pray to you, O Lord. ‘
For those who have lost faith in others, in life, and in God. [Pause] We pray to you, O Lord.
That amid the changing things of this world we may keep our hearts set on our everlasting home where true joy exists. [Pause] We pray to you, O Lord.
For local needs.
Let us pray:
Lord, we believe that you have gone ahead of us to prepare a place for us in the Father’s house. We ask you to prepare us also for that happy place. For you who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
SIGN OF PEACE
Lord Jesus- Christ, the night before you died you said to your friends: ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God still, and trust in me’. In the midst of all our anxieties and uncertainties help us to go on trusting in the Father and in you, so that we may enjoy the peace and unity of your kingdom where you live for ever and ever.
One night a man had a dream.
He dreamt that he was walking
along a beach with the Lord.
Across the sky ﬂashed the scenes of his life.
For each scene he noticed
not one but two sets of footprints in the sand.
He understood immediately that one belonged to him,
and the other to the Lord.
But then he noticed a curious thing.
At the lowest and saddest times in his life
there was only one set of footprints.
This bothered him, so he asked the Lord:
‘How come that during the most difficult times in my life,
the very times when I most needed you,
you left me on my own?’
Then the Lord replied:
‘My friend, during your trials and sufferings,
when you see only one set of footprints,
those footprints are mine.
It was then that I carried you’.