Many Rooms: A Sermon (Easter V)
There are many rooms in my Father's house. In this time of lockdown, as we all know, we are being told to stay at home. Some of us fit quite well into this, becoming virtual hermits for the last six weeks; others are no doubt crawling up the walls. I guess, especially if you are living with others, there may be a particular part of the house or flat where you most like to be. Perhaps binge-watching in the sitting room or trying new recipes in the kitchen, basking in the spring sunshine in the garden or taking refuge in the man-cave. In that room we are most ourselves. And if we look back to our childhoods and think of our parents and siblings, each person could normally be found in the same place.
Our Gospel today speaks of the world to come. Jesus tells His disciples that there are many rooms in His Father’s house. Why is He saying this? You know, our appreciation of the Bible is often dependent on the readings we have at Mass week-by-week. One danger of this is that the passages become disconnected and out of context. Take today’s Gospel - does anybody remember where exactly Jesus said those famous words, ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life’? It was at the Last Supper, during the long Farewell Discourse. And what happened immediately before the passage we’ve just heard? Jesus has just told Peter that before the cock crows he will have disowned him three times. The disciples are afraid and confused, and Jesus comforts them. There is room for them, too, in the place to which He is going.
There are many rooms in my Father's house. Most of us work very hard to make a home for ourselves and pay off our mortgage. But no matter how hard we work, no matter how large our houses and how many gadgets fill them, they are never permanent. The structures we build to live in are only temporary dwelling places. But in Heaven there is a permanent place prepared for me - not just in a generic sense but in a very personal sense. We will truly be at home; it will be the ultimate den, the cosiest nest, the nookiest bolt hole. Think of your favourite place in the world, where you felt truly loved and safe and happy, even if for only a moment - perhaps a home from childhood, a previous lodging, a holiday hideaway, with all the associated feelings. Well, that is just a taste of what our heavenly home will be like.
There are many rooms in my Father's house. The disciples would have thought of the great Temple in Jerusalem, with all its courts, its many chambers, its ample porches with room for every worshipper. Several hundred years later St Augustine explained that in Heaven the saints all shine with different shades of light, each equally intense and bright but akin to that person’s gifts and merits: ‘for,’ he wrote, ‘there is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, another glory of the stars.’
There are many rooms in my Father's house. Our passage, unsurprisingly, is often used in Masses for the Dead. Sadly, we are surrounded by death at the moment. I know some of you have lost loved ones recently. Others will be living through difficult anniversaries in the solitude of lockdown. Added to this are the thoughts we have on this VE Weekend, remembering those who died in wartime, 75 years ago. Death reminds us that there is no final resting place in this world. Even the grave is temporary. At the moment I’m celebrating more funerals than usual, many of which are at the graveside. The official paperwork refers to these as ‘internments.’ This is quite revealing because internment means ‘being in-between’ - being in between this life and the fullness of the life to come. We always will be waiting for our final resting place. What Jesus wants us to realize is that He is the way to that place: ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.’
Let us be assured of that Heavenly home and follow Jesus along the way that leads to truth and life.