Homily: The Heaven Under Our Feet

   In our first reading today, the book of Acts tells us how the disciples, after Jesus had been taken up to heaven, returned to Jerusalem and to the upper room. I am sure they were bewildered, confused and uncertain what the future held for them. They spent the next 10 days in reflection and prayer together, until that fateful Pentecost day when God sent His Spirit to give them courage and direction for their mission.

   There was so much ahead of them that they could not fathom or anticipate. Our second reading, from Peter, tells of the beginnings of persecutions on a scale that they did not imagine or conceive. But our Gospel takes us back to the upper room in an earlier time, at the last Supper, when Jesus was preparing them for their mission. This hushed little group gathered at table are precious in Jesus’ eyes, and he entrusts them to God, asking God to take care of them, but not out of condescension or pity. He describes them as they are seen by God.

   There is much to be said for seeing Christ in each other, but there is also something to be said for seeing ourselves as God sees us, with steadfast love and compassion, and with hope, too, for the future and what is yet to be. The disciples that Jesus prays for that night are not that clueless group of stumbling fools who any of us would be unwilling to follow. Now they are a band with great promise, and Jesus sees that promise within them, but he also knows that they will carry the gospel and embody its message in a hostile and curiously unwelcoming world, a world that doesn’t seem to know what it needs most, then or now. We are the community for whom Jesus prays.

   On the other hand, this prayer is very different from that of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. There we hear the ‘grieved’ Jesus, who wouldn’t mind passing on the cup He was about to drink. Here we hear the Jesus who sits at table speaking of glory that He shared with God the Father from the beginning of time. Jesus is speaking of the Glory of God, with plenty of glory for the little faith community to tap into.

   And then, in His prayer, He prays that His disciples might reflect Him and His teachings: “My life is on display in them,” He says.. This tells us something about our call, our mission today: the life of Jesus is ‘on display’ in us.

   The disciples are not to be left with human possibilities and tasks, even with the best of them. Now, even without Jesus being with them physically, they can confront the riddles of human existence with the help of this gift of their strong dependence on God. They are alone in this upper room, yet their only strength is they only have God for their strength. In a world confident of its progress and power, we look for an alternative power. Do we really think it is indeed up to us, or that we can stir God to act if we do not more humbly realize our limitations? We must see in this time, huddled together in the upper room, an earth-shaking, life-changing moment of the giving of life – not just a life of breathing, eating, moving, but the life of the age to come, a change in understanding what matters most and what needs most to be shared with the world, a movement in the world’s clock, the dawning of a new day, a message to be proclaimed that is so real that for those who hear and experience it, the life of eternity can be experienced now.

   The day that has dawned, but it is not here in its fullness. It is still a time in-between. You could call this God’s time, a time of living that ‘familiar but not yet’ reality of God’s reign. ‘Already, but not yet’ is the way we live out our lives in God.

   And the realities that we wrestle with in this time, God’s time’– suffering, and the role of prayer, our responsibilities to act and what we should leave up to God…these are the questions that nag at the hearts and minds of those who worry about things beyond their control. But we also wonder if we’re doing all we should, and doing it right. \\

   And then there’s the matter of whether we’re praying ‘right’ too. Is that why God seems silent, or says no, we wonder, because we didn’t ‘pray right’? Isn’t prayer one more way to keep or get some kind of control or at least influence in any situation, including our lives? We are a strange mix of over-confidence and anxiety. This upper room experience of the apostles is a time for all these questions.

But one you get out into the arena of apostolic activity and energy the only issue is to proclaim together the powerful word of God. This quiet but powerful prayer of Jesus at the Last Supper offers an antidote that both comforts and challenges those who are called to this task.

Jesus reminds us that we need one another in this apostolic time, we need a community of faith that will pray with us, support, encourage and challenge us as well, “companions…who experience the same struggle to be faithful in a world that does not share our values or our insights. We need a community of believers through whom shines the glory of the exalted Lord” Does this describe how your experience of church?

   In a day when outside the church people try to attain eternal life with success, possessions, or power and inside the church we focus on achieving a reward in heaven after we die, it is important to hear what John really means by eternal life. It is not that knowledge Christ leads to eternal life; knowing and living the Life of Christ is eternal life itself. What is the “eternal life” you long for?

   Mother Teresa said: “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” The hunger to belong is not merely a desire to be attached to something. It is rather undergoing that great transformation that become possible when true belonging occurs.

   Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads. Earth is crammed with heaven. But only the one who sees takes off their shoes. The connections we make in the course of a life – maybe that’s what heaven is. The true believer and the true apostle makes two resolutions: Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.”   (Kathryn Matthews Huey)

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