Lectio: There are many rooms
A [At the Last Supper] Jesus said to his disciples, ‘There are many rooms in my Father’s house; if there were not, I should have told you. I am going now to prepare a place for you and after I have gone and prepared you a place, I shall return to take you with me; so that where I am you shall be too. You know the way to the place where I am going.’ Thomas said, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way. Jesus said, ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through me.’
O, to have a little house!
To own the hearth and stool and all!
The heaped up sods upon the fire,
The pile of turf against the wall.
Y ou may remember these opening lines of a poem called An Old Woman of the Roads. Padraig Colum, who was born in Co. Longford, wrote it eighty five years ago. It describes the plight of a homeless woman who walks the roads begging for food in the day and for shelter when the night comes. She dreams of having a home of her own; night and day she prays
‘for a little house—a house of my own—
Out of the wind's and the rain's way.’
This poem touches us not only because we feel sorry for the woman of the roads, but because we share her desire for a place where she can feel at home, safe and comfortable. We want something else as well: not only to be at home but to be there with people who love and accept us and whom we love in return.
Going to prepare a place.
Imagine a father of a family who has to emigrate; there were many of them in Ireland over the past two hundred years, and many foreign nationals among us are in a similar situation today. The family is sad that he is going. He assures them that he is going to a country where there are many opportunities. He will get a place for them; then he will come back and bring them with him. Where he is, they will be there too. They will have a home and a future and they will be together again.
In the next life.
This is what it was like for Jesus and the apostles on the night before he died. The apostles were upset and frightened. Jesus said, ‘I am going to prepare a place for you. After I have prepared a place I will return and take you with me, so that where I am you will be too.’ These words were reassuring then and they are reassuring now. They are often read at a funeral: here they remind us that Jesus has prepared a place in the next life; and we trust that he has come back now and is taking the deceased person to that place to be at home and to be happy for ever. A few years before he died, Pope John Paul II said, ‘I find great peace in thinking of the time when the Lord will call me.’ In meeting the Lord, he was sure that he would find once more every good he had known and he would be in the company of all who had gone before him, who had lived their lives with faith and hope.
In this life too.
It is not only in the next life that Jesus prepares a place for us; he prepares it in this life too. He is always at work preparing a place where we can be at home with ourselves, with others, with our environment and with God. He does this in our own homes. If we have a home and feel reasonably happy in it, we can thank God for that place and for bringing us there. The same Lord is at work in our communities, cities and in every country. When he prepares a place there is plenty of room for everybody: ‘in my Father’s house there are many rooms.’ Wherever we see efforts to make people feel at home – local people and foreigners – there we are seeing Jesus at work today. We see him in the Simon Community where homeless people and volunteers live and work together in a spirit of acceptance and understanding. Indeed we see his presence most clearly when they reach out to those homeless people for whom no other provision exists.
To those who love you, Lord,
you promise to come with your Son
and make your home within them.
Come then with your purifying grace,
and make our hearts a place where you can dwell.