The words “In my Father’s house, there are many mansions” can be heard in varied ways. At funerals, where this gospel passage is frequently heard, we are reminded of Jesus’ deep compassion and care for his disciples by alerting them and us that he has gone ahead to prepare a dwelling place for us. St. Teresa of Avila used the image of “different mansions” as a description for the journey of contemplative prayer. For an understanding of the Scriptures on this Fifth Sunday of Easter, I suggest that the mansions Jesus has prepared for us are the varied rooms in our consciousness. Acts, 1 Peter and a closer reading of all that Jesus promised in our Gospel selection will fill this out in greater detail. But before we move to the readings, an observation about consciousness is in order. We know from reflected experience that there are many different levels to our consciousness, some in the forefront and others in the background. What is in the forefront has more of an impact on how we think of ourselves and how we make choices.
By the sixth chapter of Acts, we have witnessed the phenomenal growth of the “sect of the Nazorean,” the “followers of the way.” Luke accentuates this amazing occurrence by remarking that even a large number of priests were accepting Jesus and his message. This is an important addition because Luke, in his earlier work, Gospel of Luke, went to great pains to describe the closed-mindedness of these men! Something new is afoot—it is Jesus who has been raised from the dead! His promise of coming back to them has been fulfilled; all reasons for worry and fear are gone, Jesus is back with us alive! His presence is cause for wonder and an invitation to entrust oneself into the embrace of God.
But Jesus promised more at this last supper with his disciples; we will be given the ability to do the works of Jesus and even greater ones than he did. How often do I, we, allow this promise of “doing the works of God” to enter our minds and hearts and shape our consciousness? Sadly, I think, that for many of us, we have not opened all the rooms in our mansion of consciousness to receive the promises of Jesus.
The author of 1 Peter, after announcing the work of God, that is, taking the rejection experienced by Jesus Christ and transforming it into the wellspring of life and salvation, proclaims who we have become—a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. This new identity bestowed on each of us at our baptism is also a mission: we are to shine the spotlight on what God has done and continues to do through Jesus Christ. We do this that others may come to know God and render praise to the One who has loved us into existence and reconciled us to Godself. We are no longer a people without meaning or purpose; we have been embraced by the unfathomable Mystery of Love and impelled to shout out the good news.
A gift that we might pray for during this Easter season is the ability to welcome Jesus’ promises to us, his disciples, and allow them to move to the foreground of awareness so that they shape who we are and how we choose to act.
As we acknowledge with gratitude this awesome gift of new life, we express gratefulness to those who first gave us life—Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers, living and dead.
–Sr. Jean Flannelly, SC
After more than 35 years preparing men and women for ordained and lay ministry in the Church, Sister Jean currently ministers in adult spirituality and adult faith formation through workshops and spiritual direction.