Sunday Week 6 of Easter Year A (Mothers’ Day & First Communions)

A friend of mine back in Britain has just been made head of the British Jesuits. I asked him yesterday what he was going to preach about this morning: “loneliness,” he said. …You may remember David since he’s been here to Mass a few times—big guy, blond hair, my age (you know, young). Anyway, it got me thinking about my experience of this community. The last few years have had more than their fair share of ups and downs for me. Loneliness has been an element. And a sense of incompetence in my work. But the one place that none of that has entered in has been here. I love this place. Whether I’m presiding or praying from the pew, the experience moves me and I don’t feel lost or alone. There’s a presence here. Something about what we do together makes Jesus present for me. And that’s a wonder. Especially since I’ve been sulking in these last few weeks and refusing to talk to him. “That’ll show you who’s boss. That’ll teach you to pull your socks up and be a little more real, a touch more tangible.” … But in truth he does touch me, here in this place, with a gentle hand on my shoulder, a smile for my eyes, a whisper in my heart.
I hope that we all can tell such tales, or better ones. Why do we come to church except that we enjoy it? Except that we can’t imagine life without it? Community. Communion. That great Greek word, koinonia, a way of being-in-each-other.
We bring a lot together this morning.
Here’s Jesus about to leave his friends behind on the way of the cross. Here is Jesus promising to send someone to stand in for him in his absence. And not a friend as Jesus has been friend but a new parent, a new mother or father, so that his friends will not be orphaned by Jesus’ death. “I will not leave you orphans.”
Here’s Mother’s Day. Whether we are one or not, we all have had one—even if unknown or gone, whether the experience has been blessing or curse—we all owe our lives to someone else. We come from a source outside our ourselves. We come into this world at another’s bidding. But even though we are bidden to birth our lives are a gift. Both given and received. Our presence in the world is given at another’s hand. We are not self-made.
Here’s Easter still. Jesus, in our readings, may be looking forward to his death, but the gospel itself is a memory—the memory of a community gathered around a Jesus who, though he has gone, is still present in the spirit. The spirit who gives birth to us in baptism and gives birth to Jesus over and again among us. He has not left us orphans. And he means that quite tangibly. “You will see me. Because I live and you will live, you will see me.” He expects us to see him and feel his presence this morning in and through what we do together.
And this morning especially, when we make these guys more a part of us and more a part of this incredibly vulnerable job of making Jesus present in the world. We initiate them further into Jesus among us. We invite them to taste him and see him. But we can only give what we have; we can only give away what we have already received from someone else. We rely on the generosity of others and we invite our new communicants to imitate our own.
The community of the gospel of John was very inward-looking—still nursing its wounds at being thrown out of the synagogue—and it looked for Jesus to be made present right there among them … and nowhere else—God help the rest of the world. Our task is bigger—to make Jesus present for each other so that we can together make Jesus present for everyone.
Now “make” is an awkward word here. “Job,” “task,” “work,” too. We are to make Jesus present. But this making isn’t manufacture: there’s no factory to mass-produce the final product—not in making Jesus present and not in making new communicants. There’s at least as much of invitation as there is of making. Inviting Jesus to do what he wants to do—live in us. We make a space of a special shape and let that invite Jesus to be here and make his own presence felt. Our making is as much play as it is work, as much art as labour, as much given to us as made by us. Just like our lives. We cannot do without each other because we cannot do without Jesus. And Jesus cannot do without us.