5th Sunday of Easter

Date: 
Sunday, May 14, 2017
Speaker: 
Fr. Jon
Homily transcription: 

5th Sunday / Easter / A

May 13-14, 2017

St. Thomas Aquinas, Ames, Iowa

Fr. Jon Seda

 

Every six to eight weeks, I meet with a group of four other priests for support and fun.  Usually I have to drive quite a ways east for these, but this past Thursday they came to Ames.  They wanted to see the expansion at Saints Peter and Paul, and especially wanted to check out the new rectory.  

 

One of them asked me if it feels like home yet.  I said it's getting there.  A house is a structure where people live, but a home is where one experiences love.  And the more gatherings I have in the new house, the more it will feel like home.

 

In today's Gospel, Jesus describes heaven as home.  He says, "In my Father's house there are many dwelling places.  And I will come back again and take you to myself so that I am you also may be."  Then he clearly states how we get to live in the Father's house.  He says I am the way, not a way or one of many ways, but the way to the Father's house.

 

So there are two questions I have been thinking about this week. The first is if it is possible to think of heaven too little?  I think, yes it is.  On occasion I ready the obituaries in the newspaper, just to make sure I am not in them.  I am amazed at the increasingly common presumption where everyone is declared to be in heaven.  No matter what one believes, or how one lives, or if one's funeral was in a bar, lots of obituaries presume salvation without a Savior, as if it is an entitlement.  Yes, it is possible to think of heaven too little.

 

The other question is whether it is possible to think of heaven too much.  Here I have changed my mind.  I used to think yes it is.  I had a college professor named Paul who was very influential in my life and thinking.  He knew much about the Church in Latin America, and spoke of how they would preach a pie in the sky theology.  To those who live in great poverty and violence, the Church would sometimes say: "Do not hope for a better life, accept your fate, do not work for justice, and just pray for a better life in the world to come."  So while this did happen often, I thought that this fixation on heaven kept people from any action for social justice.

 

But then I learned about the lives of the saints, and realize that just the opposite is true.  In a recent reflection, Bishop Robert Barron sums up this view well.  He says, "It is precisely those who are most focused on the things of heaven that do the most good here below---people like Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, and John Paul II."

 

I have learned that the great saints kept their eyes on Jesus and on heaven.  And it is exactly this grace and vision that moves them to action for the Kingdom of God here on earth. Without this grace and vision, we end like many with many good intentions to make this world a better place.  But without this grace and vision, all those good intentions do not last long.

 

So is it possible to think of heaven too little?  Yes, we are surrounded by messages of secular salvation, a sense of entitlement with no need for a Savior.

 

Is it possible to think of heaven too much?  No, because those are most focused on the next world are precisely the ones who do the most good in this world.