5eaHomily for Mass – Fifth Sunday of Easter (Year A)

(Mary Immaculate Church: Sunday 7:30am, 9:00am & 5:00pm)

18 May 2014

(Readings: Acts 6:1-7; Ps 32; 1 Pet 2:4-9; Jn 14:1-12)

In today’s Gospel Jesus speaks of his “Father’s house” in heaven. There’s only one other place in Saint John’s Gospel when Jesus speaks of his “Father’s house” – and that’s in the episode when he cleanses the temple, turning over the tables of the money-changers and driving out those selling animals: “Get these out of here,” he says, “stop turning my Father’s house into a market place.” The Temple on earth was meant to be an image of the “Father’s house” in heaven. The Temple in Jerusalem was a “sign of the Lord’s presence among his people” just as in heaven “God is ever present to his people.” The “Jerusalem Temple was failing to live up to its role as a sign of heaven” and that’s why Jesus had “to cleanse it of its commerce and profiteering.”

The image of the “house” appears in our second reading today as well. Saint Peter tells his hearers to “set yourselves close to [the Lord] so that you too … may be living stones making a spiritual house.” The Jerusalem Temple was made of stone. But the temple of heaven is, of course, not made of stone, it is made up of the “living stones” of God’s people.

The Church – as the people of God – is therefore the image of the spiritual house of the Father in heaven. The Church, therefore, shares in the perfection of the Father’s house, but because it is made up of the living stones of God’s people, it also bears the weakness, frailty, and even sinfulness that still beset the “living stones” whilst they live on earth.

Being an image of another reality is central to the dialogue between Jesus and Philip in the Gospel. “To have seen me is to have seen the Father,” Jesus says to him. Jesus Christ – his words, his actions, his way of life – he is the embodiment of God’s desire to express Himself among people. Jesus is the perfect embodiment of the will of God.

This idea of one thing being an image of something else, which is so present in our Readings today, invites us to reflect on various things. First, for ourselves individually: Saint Peter says that we are to be living stones of a spiritual house just as Jesus is the living stone. And so it should always be in our minds: if we have put on Christ in baptism; if we have been baptized into the mystery of his life, then we should always be asking ourselves if our life is truly an image of Christ’s life? Would we be able to say –to paraphrase Jesus’ own words – to have seen me is to have seen Jesus?

But further than just the individual level, there is the level on which, together, we are the living stones making a spiritual house – which in turn is an image of the Father’s house in heaven. We can’t be the image of the house on our own – any more than a single brick is a good representation of the whole building. We are living stones together with all the other living stones, making a spiritual house. And so our life as the Christian community is significant.

Saint Peter tells us that we are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a people set apart to sing the praise of God who called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.” In his homilies in recent days, Pope Francis returned to a familiar theme of his: you can’t be a Christian outside the Church. It’s only when the living stones are together that they make up the spiritual house – otherwise they’re just stones.

And so just as we ask ourselves individually: when others see me do they see Christ? We also need to reflect on our communal life: when others look at the Christian community of Annerley Ekibin, do they see “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a consecrated nation, a people set apart to sing the praises of God who” calls us out of darkness into his wonderful light?

Individually, if our lives are marred by sin, then people won’t see Christ in us. The image will be blurred. There was no sin in Christ. Sin is unrecognizable in him, and it makes his image in us less recognizable. And it’s true of our communal life: if it’s marked by factions, gossiping, power-plays, back-biting, then we’re not going to be a very good image of the Father’s house of heaven.

This people that God has called us to belong to – to be living stones of – is a community that for two thousand years has constantly shared with people the presence of God; that has offered a life of brotherhood and fraternity to others; a community that has led people achieve communion with God, with the saints in Heaven, and with others in this temporal life; a community that has shared the saving love and mercy of God for all people; a community that has offered an explanation for the true meaning of all that happens in our lives; a community that has sought to reveal to every reality its true meaning and purpose in the plan of God.

In order for any of this to be true, we must keep our hearts fixed on Jesus who is the way, the truth and the life. May this be our prayer as we worship and praise the God who has made us His people. May our participation in these sacred mysteries shape us and help us to be the those living stones making up the spiritual house of God.

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1. Father Benjamin Earl, O.P. http://torch.op.org/preaching_sermon_item.php?sermon=5805&ref=lit