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A Reflection for the 5th Sunday of Easter

May 9, 2020

The Gospel for today, John 14:1-12, is taken not, as one might imagine, from the appearances of Jesus after His resurrection, but rather from Holy Thursday night, when our Lord was at table with His apostles for the Last Supper, just hours before His betrayal and the beginning of His passion. The talk or “homily” of Jesus at the Last Supper spans some five chapters in John’s Gospel and is frequently referred to by biblical scholars as the “Farewell Discourse.” In it, Jesus looks beyond His imminent suffering and death to the mysteries of salvation that He will accomplish to bring His work in the world to its ultimate fulfilment, namely, His resurrection, ascension and second coming at the end of time. This is a kind of “global view” of the Father’s plan for the reconciliation of all humankind to Himself, a reality summed up in the phrase, “the Paschal Mystery.

One of the more familiar verses from this Gospel passage points us ahead to God’s final plan for His children:

“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.” (vv. 2-3) Sometimes reading John’s Gospel, it’s easy to get the impression that, compared to Matthew, Mark and Luke, there are many texts that are rather abstract, highly theological, and perhaps somewhat difficult to grasp. That’s entirely understandable. But in this case, John is using the language of first-century Jewish betrothal and wedding customs to cast Jesus as the Divine Bridegroom, wedding His people, the Church, and taking them to His home in His Father’s Kingdom.

It was common practice in the time of Christ for Jewish couples to celebrate a betrothal ceremony, after which the groom and his bride were considered well and truly married. However, the newly married couple continued to live apart for as long as a year while the groom built a house for his bride, often on the family’s ancestral land owned by his father. So when Jesus talks about going on ahead of us to prepare a place for us, He’s speaking and acting as the good Jewish husband who provides a home for His wife and family, for us, the Church. This nuptial language and metaphor can help to ground and make more personal what can easily seem

impersonal and therefore unimportant. The whole Paschal Mystery has as its goal the reconciliation and the reunion of God with His people who had been estranged from Him by sin. Jesus the Good Shepherd will not rest until every dwelling place in His Father’s house is filled. His is the work of Love that never gives up on anyone.

In July of 1983, a religious sister Mother Elvira Petrozzi established the Community of the Cenacle, a place where lost and desperate people can come to live for a while until they find their way again. There are now 71 such houses of welcome and refuge in 20 countries.

This is how Mother Elvira speaks about the work of God’s love gathering His beloved children into the Kingdom:

“Don’t forget that you are not alone, and you will never be alone. He is always with you, because heaven is your life if you welcome Him.

Our God waits for only this. He lives with the great desire that we open the doors to Him, so that He can give us His unconditional and faithful love, which never disappoints us.

Since we are all so different, every so often I ask myself how God can love every single one of us with a unique, specific, and personal tenderness. He can, because He even knows every single cell in our body. He created us and wanted us. He calls us by name, and we must discover who we are in His eyes: risen, new creatures who have welcomed the love of God in that grandiose space that is our life;

He comes, because He is a God who loves to be welcomed. He stands outside the door of our freedom and knocks. Let us not leave Him outside like a beggar; let’s open that door so He can enter!” (from Sparks of Light: From the Heart of Mother Elvira)

Peace, health and joy in the Lord to all and may our Lord see fit to bring us together again very soon!

Fr. Gregory

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