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The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II Fifth Sunday in Easter-A, 07 May 2023 Acts 6:1-7 ><}}}*> 1 Peter 2:4-9 ><}}}*> John 14:1-12
From being our “gate” as the Good Shepherd last week, Jesus today introduces himself as our “home”, our dwelling by being “the way and the truth and the life”. Our scene is still at the last supper with Jesus teaching his disciples including us today with some of his important lessons expressed in words so touching and full of mysteries.
Jesus said to his disciples: “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. 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.”
Though the apostles were still at a loss at the meaning of the words spoken by Jesus that night, they knew and felt something so bad would happen, that life for them would no longer be the same as before that troubled them so deeply inside.
To be troubled here means more than the feeling but experience itself of confrontation with the power of evil and death, when we get that existential feeling of our mortality, when we feel so helpless in a situation, asking “paano na ito?” or “paano na kaya ako/kami?” Like the apostles that night, we too have been into similar situations of being troubled deep inside when we realize in no uncertain terms something so sweeping is happening, altering our lives “forever” like when we or a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, gets a stroke, or has to undergo a major surgery of the heart or brain, and losing a loved one.
Jesus is telling us this Sunday like on that holy Thursday evening to stand firm because these evil and death will just have momentary control over us, a passing over that is why we have to summon all our strength and courage, confidence and perseverance in him as he himself had already triumphed with his own passion, death, and resurrection.
And that is the good news! Jesus had won over all our worst fears like death. It is the gift of Easter, of the Lord’s Resurrection right there inside our hearts, already in our very core we only need to recover by abiding in him always. But before going any further, let us first confront one important lesson this gospel scene offers us: When are we really most troubled in life?
When we examine the many troubles we have been through, we find that more than the difficult and harsh situations we have faced were the many troubles within our very selves. What really trouble us most are not those outside us but within us. These are those little guilt feelings we used to take for granted, little details in life we used to ignore and dismiss as nothing for so long that suddenly now under our very nose as so serious, so important after all.
The most troubling experience of all is when we realize how we have wasted so many opportunities to love and be kind, to be more forgiving and understanding, when we know we have done something wrong and have done nothing to rectify it. We are troubled when outside conditions throw us into situations that make us confront not only death and evil but our very selves that suddenly, we feel unprepared and inadequate especially sickness and death that both surely come. Always.
And here is the big difference: Jesus was not surprised, was never caught unaware of his pasch because all his life he has been one in the Father and one with us. See in all four gospel accounts how Jesus had total control over everything that is why he was so prepared for his passion, death and resurrection because he never turned away from the Father and anyone in need of healing, of forgiveness, of comfort, of his presence. Jesus never turned away from his very essence, his mission which is oneness in the Father and oneness with us his beloved.
Jesus was so at home, so to speak, with himself and with the Father that he never fell into sin despite the devil’s temptations nor the scheming traps and plots of his enemy. This is what Jesus is telling us of preparing a room for us in the Father’s house, that we be at home with our true selves in the Father in him.
We are most troubled when we are not home, literally and figuratively speaking. And sadly, many times as we have experienced in this pandemic that even in our own homes we could not be at home because we are detached and away from our families and loved ones.
“In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places… Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works.”
John 14: 2, 10
The word “dwelling” is a favorite of John especially in this part of his gospel. For John, dwelling is more than a home but unity of Jesus and the Father as well as unity of Jesus and his disciples including us. In his prologue he spoke of Jesus as the Word who became flesh and “dwelled” among us. So beautiful an imagery of the Son of God living among us, being one with us and in us, not just physically present but through and through like going through our human experiences except sin.
To dwell is not just to reside but most of all to abide in Christ, to be united, to be one in him which he would say in the following chapter when he identified himself as the true vine and we are his branches.
Therefore, to dwell is to be one, to commune in the Lord. That is why heaven is not just a place but a condition, a being of eternal union with God where Jesus assures us of a dwelling. And because Jesus is our dwelling, our home, that is why he is also our way because he alone is the truth and the life.
Now, if anyone lives in Jesus, he/she lives in the Father too as he clarified with Philip who asked him to show them the Father and that would be enough.
How lovely that Jesus taught these lessons of unity and oneness in him and the Father and with one another in the context of the table, of a meal.
Here we find his last supper was not just a prelude to his coming Passion, Death and Resurrection but to his Ascension into heaven too when Jesus was already speaking of his entrance into a new and higher level of relating with the Father and with us his disciples, his Body as the Church.
This “dwelling” continues in our Eucharistic celebrations especially the Sunday Mass and even right in our own homes too during meal time. And there lies the challenge of our gospel this Sunday.
The first major problem in the early church came in the context of the table when “the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution” (Acts 6:1) of food. The Hellenists were the Jews who have lived outside Israel that when they returned home, they have become so alienated because of language barriers even of outlook in life. The Apostles resolved the issue by ordaining the first seven deacons.
It is interesting that the word “deacon” came from the Greek word diakonia which means “to serve at the table”. In Latin, diakonia is ministerium which is service in the table too. How lovely that to serve is actually rooted in the table found in homes!
We say home is where the heart is. In that case, God is our home. Jesus is our dwelling. We are troubled when we are not at home with God in Jesus and with our own families. Any problem at home takes priority in us too because family is important to us. How sad that some people could reject their own family without realizing that no matter what happens to us, it is still our family who would save us and stand by us in the end. This is what St. Peter’s was saying in the second reading of Jesus being the stone rejected to become the cornerstone when often we dismiss our family but in the end remain with us when our chips are down.
This Sunday, let us go home in Jesus our true home found in our own families. Home in Filipino is tahanan from the root word tahan which means to stop crying. To dwell in Filipino is manahan, from the same root too. We stop crying in our home because that is where we find security and comfort, love and acceptance, most of all, life and direction. Amen. Have a blessed week ahead!