Most Rev. Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L.
5th Sunday of Easter – May 14, 2017
Mother’s Day Adoption Mass
When I was in my second year of seminary formation, some 38 years ago, my family moved to another home. It was in the same town and neighborhood, but the move required that my family – or at least I – would have to leave the only home that I had ever known, from the day I was brought home from the hospital following my birth and for the next 23 years of my life.
The move was to take place in early December. So at the conclusion of my time with my family during the Thanksgiving break, I said my “good-by” to the house that was my home, knowing that when I returned in a few weeks to be with my family for Christmas, I would join them in a different place. I can recall taking a solitary walk through the entire house, thinking about events of my life that unfolded in every space – from Christmas mornings in our living room – to birthday celebrations in our dining room – to the mischief that my friends and I would get into in our third floor attic on rainy days. And I clearly can recall wondering what it would be like moving to a different place. Would I feel at home? Or, because I was preparing for my life’s work and would never live in my family’s new home as much as I did in the one we were leaving, I wondered if I would feel like a visitor, just passing through.
Of course, all of my questions and concerns were for naught. I can picture as if it were yesterday arriving at my family’s new home for Christmas break. It was just about dinner time and it was already dark and cold outside. I rang the doorbell because my folks hadn’t yet presented me with a key to the front door – they eventually did – and both of my parents came to the door to greet me. I quickly scanned what I could see of the new house to get a sense of what was going one. My dad had a fire burning in the living room fireplace that made the space feel warm and welcoming. I could smell my mother’s cooking in the kitchen. And then both of my parents gave me a hug – and immediately their new house was my home.
More recently, about ten years ago following my father’s death, my mother moved to a smaller, and more manageable house. When she moved – this time by herself – my sister and I presented her with a ceramic plaque that hangs proudly on the wall in her kitchen. I reads, “Home is where your mom is” – a pretty profound assertion for all of us to consider as we honor our mothers this day.
While many years have passed from that first Christmas in my family’s new house and I’ve moved far more times than I care to admit, I learned a very important lesson about life in the experience that I just shared with you. A good home has nothing to do with bricks and mortar and furniture and drapes. Instead, it has everything to do with relationships – the people who accept us and love us. The great American poet, Robert Frost, once said, “Home is the place … where they have to take you in.”
Home is much more about relationships with one another than anything else, isn’t it? … And faith, which we celebrate during this sacred hour of worship, roots us in our relationship with God. That relationship – more than any other and through the passage of time and space and grief and loss – has the power to provide us with the most profound sense of acceptance and love that we will ever find in our lives. … To be without faith is to truly be alone and without a home.
In today’s gospel, on the final night of his life before he faced the agony of Calvary and the cross that led to his death, Jesus shared words that capture so much of what lies at the heart of his mission among us and the essence of the gospel for which he gave his life. “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.”
Note that in sharing these words with those who were closest to him, Jesus never said to them – or to us – that faith in him would preserve us from distress or pain or disappointment or setbacks or fear. To the contrary, Jesus himself faced all of these experiences and more as he journeyed through life and embraced his cross.
Jesus does, however, challenge us in today’s gospel and in the midst of all that life unfolds to trust in him and so to find peace in our hearts – at our center – through the mystery of his life, death and resurrection. For ultimately, Jesus’ gift of salvation and life is not solely a reality that we hope to embrace someday as we pass from this world to the next. Rather, it is a gift that begins in this world – now – when we give God room in our lives – when we make our relationship with God the focus for all that we do and are – and when we are humble enough to allow his love, his mercy and forgiveness to take root in our hearts.
Saint John XXIII shared these touching and hope-filled words in his final days on earth as he prepared for his death. “My bags are packed. I feel like a school boy going home for the holidays.”
May we pray for the wisdom to ask God for the one thing that he promises in today’s gospel: that our hearts not be troubled but that we find within them, at our center, true and lasting peace –the peace that reminds us that we belong to God and are loved – the peace that enables us to face life as it comes with hope – and the peace that assures us that in God alone do we find our home.