5th Sunday of Easter
May 13, 2017
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.
In my father’s house there are many dwelling places.…
I am going to prepare a place for you.”
A number of years ago I signed up to be a chaplain on a cruise ship. I have only done this once, because I get deathly seasick on boats, and no amount of patches, Dramamine or wrist bands seems to be enough. Nevertheless, I received some tremendous insights on this voyage about the nature of life on earth.
Life is like a voyage on an ocean liner. There are all kinds of rooms on-board. Some are fine staterooms with beautiful views and balconies over the water while others are below the waterline – the staterooms that are less expensive. Still other dwellings are inside cabins – rooms without a view, rooms that are small or rooms that can make one seasick (guess which one they gave me!). In other words, on the voyage of life we all have different staterooms – different classes, abilities, talents and opportunities. But one thing each of us shares is that we’re all in the same boat! Each of us has a day that we embarked on our journey of life and there will come a day that we will each disembark. But, unlike a cruise, each of us will get on and off at different times.
The problem is that none of us remembers our birth—we become aware while on board the ship and must discover the true nature of things as life progresses. How foolish it is to forget that we are, as it were, on a boat in the water. Each of us has a destination and in that place we will live forever. How foolish to spend an inordinate amount of time fussing over and decorating the stateroom on a voyage of limited time or to spend one’s whole time trying to climb up to first class and pay no attention to the home we are going to live in on the far shore. Yet so many live as if the boat were our only home, as if this world were all there is.
In this Sunday’s gospel, Jesus gives us a most comforting image. He is building a house for us. It’s not like any earthly house because this builder knows exactly what is perfect for us. We will have neighbors that we love, yet as much privacy as we need. Each room will be decorated with significant scenes, three-dimensional and real, from moments in our previous life, moments that glorified God. It will be the home of our dreams.
As the nuns used to tell us, this building will be only as good as the materials we send up. Perhaps you have heard the story of a man who had a vision of heaven and he was taken to a street with many fine mansions, including the one Mother Teresa was in. Of course, he didn’t expect to be staying near her! And they walked and walked and walked until they found a small cabin with missing windows and doors. “Here’s your home,” said the angel. The man was surprised at this until the angel said, “yes, it’s modest, but this was all we could do with the materials you sent up!” Jesus has indeed gone to prepare a permanent home for us, so let us take care to send him good materials to work with.