ColumnsNaming Grace

Not a room, but a relationship!

We brought our fifth child home from the hospital to our smaller house. There wasn’t an extra room for another child, so he slept next to us in a bassinet. My mom, bless her heart, encouraged me, “It’s much better to be close together. Everyone gets lost in a house too big.” Eventually, we moved into a larger house, but it was only much later that our fifth and sixth children had their own bedrooms. In this age of social distancing, though some kids (moms and dads) want to escape to their own rooms, most of us long to be together, interacting, sharing meals. So, what of today’s Gospel, with Jesus speaking to the disciples before the crucifixion: “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.” So, is heaven a place? Do we each get our own room?

This Gospel passage, often read at funerals, assures us of Jesus’ presence even after death: “If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?” What a comforting statement for the disciples and for us. Jesus prepares a place for each of us! But it’s not a room, it’s a relationship. Just as a home is not a configuration of four walls, but the warm relationship within a family. And the church is not a building, but the caring community in Christ. Heaven is not a room, but an indwelling, a relationship with Jesus, who is “the way, the truth and the life.”

Jesus is the way to the Father — to heaven, and Jesus makes a way in every circumstance of our lives: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.” No matter what we are going through, the loneliness of the pandemic, the death of a loved one or loss of our livelihood, Jesus is the way to new life. Jesus makes the way through any rejection, disappointment, failure or heartache. And in death, he promises to “come back again and take us to himself.”

As parents/grandparents, we name grace — God’s personal presence — through our deep and intimate relationship with Jesus. We lead our children to a relationship with Jesus by teaching them to pray, breaking open the Scripture, showing mercy and speaking of Jesus as the way through any hardship. As parents, we guide our children in Christian living by offering “spiritual sacrifices” in the home. We teach our children that faith is a relationship with Jesus, who loves us unconditionally and infinitely; we need not fear, not even death.

My mother spoke truth. You can get lost in any house when members live separately, consumed by their own lives — rarely gathering for meals, conversation, prayer or play. We were made for more. If there is one thing this pandemic, this time of isolation, has stirred within us is our deep desire for communion with others. We thirst to be with our parents, children, grandchildren, friends, neighbors and faith community. We hunger for Jesus’ real presence in the Eucharist, until we are fully united with him in heaven. And, there, we won’t need a room, because it’s THE relationship with the Trinity — for eternity! Now, that’s good news!

Happy Mother’s Day!

How will you connect with a loved one today?

What has the pandemic taught you about relationship?

Naming Grace in the Domestic Church reflects on Scripture through the lens of a parent/grandparent. To read more reflections or to connect with Mary Pedersen: