APRIL 20, 2008-5TH SUNDAY OF EASTER: acts 6:1–7;1 P 2:4–9; Jn 14:1–12


YOU ARE LIVING STONES, BUILT AS AN EDIFICE OF SPIRIT, INTO A HOLY PRIESTHOOD, OFFERING SPIRITUAL SACRIFICES. Saint Peter’s words in today’s second reading raises a fascinating question poses to each one of us: He makes me ask: “What am I in my deepest, most intimate self? How do I think of my self? Does my concept of who I am correspond to what I believe about my self?  Nothing is more familiar to each of us than our sense of self. Indeed, it is so familiar to us that we rarely attend to it so as to make it the focus of our reflection. Yet, Saint Gregory the Great considered that each of us would do well to study these issues. He writes “Every Soul should care for nothing more than that she knows herself. She who knows herself knows that she is made to the image of God.”[1] 


So much do we take the sense of our self for granted that to consider it as a distinct reality, apart from our body and bodily habits requires a determined effort of mind. When we first make that effort we experience no great success in pursuing our object; we require training before we gain any clear insight into the precise nature of our own self so that we gain a satisfactory answer to the question we set before our attention: “what am I really?” or, to put it another way “Who is this self that responds to my name?” If we have the courage and motivation to persevere in our pursuit we soon discover that any answer we find is not fully satisfactory. The sense we have of our self turns out to be more complex than we have always supposed. St. Augustine, in spite of his genius for self-analysis and the earnestness with which he pursued these same questions commented that in spite of his efforts  “yet I myself do not grasp the whole of what I am. And so the soul is too narrow to possess itself. Where might be that which it does not contain? (Confessions X.5.15)


For one thing, as I undertake this quest for the real, true self that we are, there emerge ideas, images, feelings, attitudes that I recognize as mine, as some part of me but there is an elusive, mysterious ground out of which these various inner realities grow and in which they remain rooted. The further I enter into my self, the more aware I become that this self is not confined within the limits set by any one idea, image, relation, feeling or disposition that I can identify and name. There is a life, a quest, a longing for something that exists beyond any state of mind and heart that I can give a satisfactory name to. This self that I am, in its highest, most intimate strivings, belongs to another world than this material universe presents to my senses. My most personal self is transcendent, made for another world. I am not truly at home so long as I identify with the self that can be named by my work, my sensible attractions, my friends and associates. All these have but a limited measure of correspondence to this inmost self that is hidden not only from others, but in great part, even from my own awareness.


This is the self that Saint Peter speaks to in our text today. You are a living stone, precious in God’s eyes. You are built into an edifice of the spirit. Your self is made to belong to God by being built up with other living stones into the temple that is eternal, whose light is God himself, shining on the face of Jesus. In the Gospel today our Lord tells us that truly to know who he is we must approach him with a readiness to look beyond the surface appearances and penetrate to his inner self. There alone is his true identity revealed. “If you really knew me, you would know my Father also. . . . Whoever has seen me has seen the Father …who lives in me”


Jesus had identified himself as the living temple of God (Jn 2:19) but it was only after the resurrection that his disciples understood his meaning. For us too, the light of the resurrection enables us to know not only that Jesus is the eternal Son of God, but that in him we form with one another the living temple of God. Today’s readings reveal to each of us the true self we are made to activate, and urge us to bring our whole lives into harmony with the voice of his risen Son, who loves us, and gave himself up to death for our sake. Now he lives and comes to us in this Eucharist that together we might be, as it were, living stones in the temple of his glory. &


[1] Gegoire le Grand, Commentaire sur le Cantique des Cantiques, 44 S Chr 114, 134.


Abbot John Eudes Bamberger