First reading: Acts 6:1–7
As the number of disciples continued to grow, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table. Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit, also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles who prayed and laid hands on them. The word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly; even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith.
Second reading: 1 Pt. 2:4–9
Beloved: Come to him, a living stone, rejected by human beings but chosen and precious in the sight of God, and, like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it says in Scripture: Behold, I am laying a stone in Zion, a cornerstone, chosen and precious, and whoever believes in it shall not be put to shame. Therefore, its value is for you who have faith, but for those without faith: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone, and A stone that will make people stumble, and a rock that will make them fall. They stumble by disobeying the word, as is their destiny.
You are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises” of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
Gospel: Jn. 14:1–12
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. Where I am going you know the way.” Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said to him, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.”
In other words
Fr. John O’Mahony, SVD (Divine Word Seminary, Tagaytay City)
An experience that is familiar to most of us is that of “being met” upon arrival and being escorted when departing, particularly after or before a long journey. As we approach our destination, we look forward to being met. This is especially so if we have been away from loved ones for a long time. And if we are going someplace for the first time, we get worried about being met. Did they receive my email? Will I recognize the person sent to meet me? What happens if nobody is there and we have no instructions about what to do? And then the feelings of relief and joy when we find that somebody is there to meet us!
But what about the opposite experience? We arrive home or at our foreign destination only to find that there is nobody to meet us. On the practical side there are unexpected problems: issues such as transport, phone numbers, language problems, etc. And when eventually everything works out, explanations are given, apologies offered and accepted, and all is well again, there may be some emotions issues that still linger within us. Feelings of disappointment, hurt, and even anger can remain and take longer to resolve.
In our Gospel reading for today, the words of Jesus capture the emotions of both departure and arrival with their undertones of sadness and anticipated joy. The Filipino language describes this experience very well with the two simple words hatid/sundo. The words of Jesus add a dimension to the hatid/sundo experience that help in strengthening our faith and deepening our hope in God’s love for us. Through his death, and later on his Ascension, the need for Jesus to leave is to return to the Father, having accomplished his mission here on earth. But he does not abandon or forget us, rather he is going “to prepare a place for us.” And then he will return to meet us (sundo) and bring us to the place he has prepared for us in the Father’s house (hatid).
Jesus also does what we cannot do when seeing off our departing loved ones at the airport. When they have left, we must go home again, but Jesus goes with us on the journey. He is our Way who keeps us from traveling in wrong directions that lead to darkness and death. In other words, the one who believes in Jesus is invited to share in his friendship and be in touch with eternal life.
It should not surprise us then that this reading is often used for funeral Masses. We sense the inclusive love of Jesus for absolutely everybody. There is no crowding in heaven; salvation is for all who are willing to accept it. The idea of Jesus meeting us to accompany us to the place prepared for us is very encouraging and a great consolation for those who must let go of their loved ones at death. Jesus cannot remove the pain of departure, but he gives us the consoling joy of knowing that our departed one is safe with him.
May we, too, be ready at that crucial moment when Jesus awaits our arrival. And he will be there for the meeting; nothing will prevent him. That is his promise.