Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The gospel is one of the most profound discourses of Christ (John 14: 1-12). The apostles were most likely devastated about news of the betrayal of Judas, his announcement that he is leaving soon and the prediction of Peter’s triple denial. You think you are having a bad day. Most of this chapter is meant to shore up the apostles, and perhaps we are in need of some good news as well.
At one level Jesus is speaking of heaven when he says in my Father’s house there are many dwelling places and the various kinds or degrees of blessedness there will be. But there are other ways to interpret what he is saying. For example, the Father’s house is where God is and so whoever is with God is in his house. This was St. Paul’s and also some of my friends’ favorite description of the Church; it’s God’s house.
Jesus says that there are many dwelling places which can also mean places where Christians live. In those places God is present; otherwise he would have told us. For sure, Christ would have told us; he would not deceive us, and he needed to go away so that a place could be prepared for us. This is a sign of his immense love for us. And he is assuring the apostles and us that we are not alone. It comes at a good time for us. The apostles knew this, but they didn’t know that they knew. They were afraid and confused.
Jesus is the way to the Father. There are some ways that are true and others that are false. Jesus is the road to heaven and to life. He is the way without error; he is the truth without lies; he is life without death. His way is the easy way and it brings us unending life. His way is wide and spacious, his truth is powerful and plentiful, and his life is delightful and glorious. What could be better than this?
St. Bernard said Jesus was going up because truth is from above and vanity and worldliness are from below. Unfortunately, Philip didn’t know enough to say, Lord, show us yourself and this is enough. Jesus knows that the Father speaks through me and is in me and with me. It took them a while to understand how identical he was to the Father. Imagine a Jew trying to wrap his head around this fact: this man in front of me is equal to God.
Jesus also argues that you can believe it from the works that I do. You can understand how good and kind and loving he is from the works and miracles I have done. How much the Father longs for you, wants to feed you, be with you, and stay with you. All the words and deeds of Christ lead us to the Father.
And then Jesus says, you will do greater works than these. It’s true. Peter’s shadow heals sick people. Jesus never did that. Nations were converted through these twelve me. Jesus never did that either. Maybe it was the modesty of Jesus; he didn’t want to appear like a super magician or he knew that it would be more impressive seeing these men do these mighty works. Whatever you ask in my name, Jesus says, I will do for you.
Peter’s letter (2: 4-9)has allusions to the covenant made on Mt. Sinai. At that covenant people could not go near or see God, but Peter is announcing a new rock, a living stone, and says, come close. If you lean on this stone you will not be disgraced and dejected.
We are privileged to be part of this, of this temple that God is building. These stones are being fitted together, shave a little bit here, even more over there, and God puts the right people next to us in order to take away the rough edges. The problem is that we try to get away from the chisel. He puts us in fixes in order to fix us, and we try to fix the fix. Until we have the courage to say, “I am not going to try to fix this. I will embrace it because I know, Lord, you are doing a work with me.”
We ought to have complete confidence in the new way that Christ has opened for us. The curtain of the sanctuary in the temple was torn. By Christ’s blood, through his flesh, we have a new way to the Father that is not just restricted to the High Priest who can only enter this sanctuary once a year. This new way is open to all of us, all the time.
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