Thursday, May 11, 2017

"I GO TO PREPARE A PLACE FOR YOU."


       Homily for May 12th, 2017: John 14:1-6

                 Jesus has just washed his disciples’ feet. Then he tells them he will be
      leaving them. The news plunges them into grief and fear. Jesus responds by saying:
      “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.” You
       must trust, he was telling them, that the same God whom we worship in synagogue
       and temple is truly present and active in me. 

          That is a tremendous claim. The disciples whom Jesus was addressing didn’t yet know him as we know him — as the divine Son of God. To them he was a man like themselves. Realization that he was more came only after the resurrection. “I am going,” Jesus assures his friends, “to prepare a place for you. I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.” Down through the centuries Christians have pondered and prayed over this promise. Here is what three of them have said.

St. Cyprian, 3rd century Bishop of Carthage in North Africa:

“We reckon paradise to be our home. A great throng awaits us there of those dear to us, parents, brothers, sons. A packed and numerous throng longs for us, of those already free from anxiety for their own salvation, who are still concerned for our salvation. What joy they share with us when we come into their sight and embrace them! What pleasure there is there in the heavenly kingdom, with no fear of death, and what supreme happiness with the enjoyment of eternal life.” [Office of Readings for Friday of the 34th week of the year)]

St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo in North Africa from 395 to 430.

“How happy will be our shout of Alleluia there, how carefree, how secure from any adversary, where there is no enemy, where no friend perishes. There praise is offered to God, and here too; but here it is by people who are anxious, there by people who are free from care; here by people who must die, there by those who will live forever. Here praise is offered in hope, there by people who enjoy the reality; here by those who are pilgrims on the way, there by those who have reached their own country.” [Office of Readings for Saturday of the 34th week of the year)]

Pope Benedict XVI, now retired:

Christianity does not proclaim merely a certain salvation of the soul in some imprecise place beyond, in which everything in this world that was precious and loved by us is erased, but it promises eternal life, ‘the life of the world to come’: nothing of what is precious and loved will be ruined, but will find its fulfillment in God. All the hairs of our head are numbered, Jesus said one day (cf. Matthew 10:30). The final world will also be the fulfillment of this earth, as St. Paul states: ‘Creation itself will be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God’" (Romans 8:21). [Aug. 15, 2010]

          How do we reach the joys of which these three great Christians speak? Jesus tells us in the final sentence of today’s gospel: “No one comes to the Father except through me.”