The passage we hear today from John's gospel is part of Jesus' farewell discourse...his final words of challenge, instruction, hope and encouragement for those who have journeyed with him. In the ancient world a person's last words were always very special. Biographers would take great care to ensure that they contained the most important things that future generations should learn. While the gospels are not biographies, they are written to a particular audience. John's listeners are both Jews and gentiles, all now calling themselves Christians, many of whom have been victims of persecution. To the early church community, the instruction, "Do not let your hearts be troubled" would have been significant. Today, we might call it "guarding your hearts." In Greek, the statement is, "Decide not to let your hearts be troubled." Faith and trust in Jesus, who reveals Himself as the Way, the Truth and the Life, is a conscious, deliberate choice. The apostles were confused and distressed; Jesus tried to reassure them that if they kept their hearts open to what they had seen and heard while they were with Him, they could remain strong. For us, St. Benedict echoes similar sentiments. What is more delightful than this voice of God calling to us? See how God, in love, shows us the way of life. (Rule of St. Benedict, Prologue 19, 20)
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Today, in a church that is so much more diverse than that of the early Christian community, perhaps the good news lies in Jesus reassurance that, "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...so that where I am you may also be?" Our journey will not take us to some random place, but to a dwelling place prepared for us by the God who knows each of us by name, who molded and fashioned us. DWELLING places...not merely a residence, but a DWELLING place, a place where one lives in the midst of relationships...in this case, a relationship with God and with the God we encounter in others. When we dwell rather than just live we know, we understand, we linger, we move toward wholeness. There are many dwelling places in God's house. An ancient translation of the word house is "a place where even the most vulnerable child will be raised in the safety and the knowledge of God."
This translation offers us a challenge for how we live as monastic women. Not only do we dwell with God...we dwell with each other. By our monastic profession, by living together in this house of God, we have promised to "support with the greatest patience one another's weaknesses of body or behavior." The good news in today's gospel is that ALL are welcome, all are invited to dwell in relationship with Jesus. There is a place for each person, a place of hope and reconciliation. This hope is captured in a song some of you may remember from Westside Story. There's a place for us. Somewhere a place for us. Hold my hand and we're halfway there. Hold my hand and I'll take you there. We share a dwelling place now, and anticipate the one that is still being readied for us. Let us journey together into the heart of God that God might bring us all together to everlasting life!
Posted by Sr. Nicolette Etienne, OSB at 5:48 PM