A Place for Everyone

Acts 6:1-7; 1 Peter 2:4-9; John 14:1-14

In addition to the 5th Sunday of Easter, today is also Mothers’ Day here in the USA. It’s almost obligatory for a preacher to mention his or her mother, tell a story about mothers, or recall a lesson learned from mom (for those who are expecting that, I won’t disappoint you.) It’s especially important to mention our mothers this year, when so many of us will be separated from them because of health, travel, or other restrictions. We need to be especially mindful of those mothers who are in hospitals or other healthcare facilities, as well as those who have died.

One lesson that I learned from my Mom and grandmothers, even if they didn’t always say it, was summed up in this proverb: “a place for everything, and everything in its place.” In other words, t-shirts don’t belong in the sock drawer, cans of pop shouldn’t get left in the freezer, tools shouldn’t be stored in the dining room, and shoes shouldn’t be scattered on the floor anywhere (even in your bedroom). 

Our scripture readings today expand this wisdom from things to people:  God has a place for everyone and so does God’s church. In his Last Supper discourse in the Gospel of John, Jesus assures his disciples: “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.” Jesus has prepared a place for each of us, and not only in the next life but here and now. All we need to do is follow him, “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”  

He is the way to the Father, the fullness of God’s self-revelation to the world and obedience to his will. He is the truth that’s sets us free: the truth of who God is and who we are called to be, each according to our own gifts. He, who in love gave himself totally for us and our salvation, is the source of life everlasting.  

St. Peter exhorts those who follow Jesus to be “living stones.” That image seems odd, even oxymoronic. We think of stones as inanimate objects. But every stone has an ancient story. It may start as sand, for example, but with time and many forces of nature it becomes something different yet also fundamentally the same.  

Isn’t that our story? We are the same and yet different than we were at our birth and even our rebirth in baptism. Through that sacrament, we have been chosen by God to be built up into “a spiritual house” and “a holy priesthood” of believers who offer spiritual sacrifices not only for ourselves but for others. Over the course of 2000 years, the Church has been built, expanded, repaired, and rebuilt by such stones.  

But the church is also a very human institution, infected with prejudice, privilege and other sins. Part of our pilgrimage as a people of God requires confronting our own collective as well as personal sin. In our first reading we witness discrimination against Hellenist widows. They were neglected because they spoke a different language and had different cultural background than their Hebrew counterparts.  

The apostles determined that the Church had to find a creative and effective way to deal with this problem. Their discernment led to the development of a new ministry—what we now know as the diaconate. A group was chosen and commissioned to carry out this work, though Stephen and Philip are known more for their preaching the word than serving at table.

The current crisis that afflicts our world has created a host of new questions, challenges and needs. Many of us have been drawn or pushed into a new and sometimes overwhelming digital world that our younger counterparts inherited. We have been called to think deeper about what it means to be “connected” and yet not physically present.  

We are realizing how much in our lives we took for granted, everything from airline travel to meat, bleach, and toilet paper. We are slowly and sometimes grudgingly coming to terms with a “new normal” that is not completely defined. Some are even rebelling against it. Life as we know it has been disrupted, and it will never be the same.

We are in a new place. Yet the ancient wisdom reminds us: “a place for everything, and everything in its place.” We do not want to be where we are, but we cannot escape it. God is calling us to be disciples here and now, to be the Church needed in this time in many different places in the world.  

COVID-19 has destroyed part of the world we have known. God is calling us to the living stones that he can use to build something better, with Jesus as our cornerstone. +

 - Capuchin Friar John Celichowski