I can vividly remember being hauled over the coals by a senior priest over his use of the word family. Talking to young novices, he pointed out that they were now part of the family of the congregation they had joined. I disagreed with him, and counter-argued that the family is a word that is too often misused. The family is a unique grouping, indeed a most intimate society made up of parents and children. Yes, we talk about the family of nations, we loosely use terms like “the GAA family”. But the kernel or root of the word lies in that place where we find the greatest security, the greatest of love, that place where we can be truly ourselves. Of course there are dysfunctional families, broken families, hurting and divided families, but for most people the family is made up of children and parents living most of the time in harmony and love.
Homes are places where families live. They are sacrosanct places. Watching our television screens every evening the destruction of family homes across Ukraine tells us something of the abomination and evil that is perpetrated by the aggressor.
Anytime we use the words family and home we are talking about something powerfully intimate. Our homes, at least for the majority of people, are the places where we can let down our guard, express ourselves for who we are in a manner and way that is not thinkable in any other place or situation.
It’s the place where reality reigns supreme. And it is also the purest form of community. Everyone has a role to play in the home according to their circumstances, condition and ability. It’s the place where understanding is a given. But like everything on this earth of ours, there is no perfect family, never was, never will be. Like everything to do with our lives, families can be rough around the edges. But they are special places and demand our loyalty and respect.
Everything we say about God is always said in terms of analogy. God’s greatness and perfection make it so that all our words describing God are limited. Any time we use words to speak of God the dissimilarity is greater than the similarity.
As Christians we believe that the historical person Jesus is God. His words have special significance for us. In tomorrow’s Gospel (John 14: 23- 29) John quotes Jesus: “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make our home with him.”
There it is. The perfect home is to be found with God in magnificent union where community is to be found in total perfection. I often think of the theological gymnastics used in attempting to explain the Trinity. The Trinity is all about perfect communion. The union of persons is so perfect that it is oneness in God.
Tomorrow’s Gospel has two magic themes. It talks about being at home with God and it also talks, maybe it is better to say, hints at perfect communion in some sort of way well beyond our understanding of sharing in the most intimate of ways with and in the mystery of God.
I am often mystified why Christian churches underplay the importance of communion, solidarity, the idea that we are in some special way united with one another. Communists showed a glimpse of the importance of unity among peoples when they deployed their famous slogan: “Workers of the world unite”. As Christians we too often talk about eucharist and communion with little sense of what those words mean. Does it ever cross our minds communion transcends every aspect of the Christian faith? When last did we hear of a row among Christians about our communion infringements? Our homes might well give us a glimpse of what St John is writing about tomorrow. And they should. We are at home with God.
There is not a day in my life when I don’t think of and fondly remember my beloved mother and father.