For Sunday, May 7th, 2023
Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where I am going you know the way.” Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said to him, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.”
The Christian life is a pilgrimage. We are journeying toward our final destination—heaven. This life cannot and does not last forever. We cannot live forever on this earth or in these bodies, for both this earth and our bodies will pass away. This life in these bodies tests us and prepares us for eternity. The test is in how we respond to God’s revelation in Jesus, for Jesus is the way to the Father and to the Father’s house. Life can be a blessing only with God for without him all life—even, or perhaps especially, everlasting life—is hellish.
That is why our Lord’s words are so comforting. We have the way to heaven in Jesus because he is one with the Father. The Father has loved him, and he has given that love to all those whom the Father has given him so that they might live their lives in Jesus. “It is no longer I that live,” says St. Paul, but “Christ lives in me.” He lives in us, and we live our lives in him. As long as we continue to live in that love, we will keep living and find our permanent resting place after this life.
In the Father’s house, Jesus tells the disciples, are many dwelling places—or, in other translations, “mansions.” The Father’s house is the destination of our pilgrimage. And the mansions or dwelling places tell us some important things.
First, they are dwelling places—plural. Unlike some philosophical or religious conceptions of our final destination, heaven is a place of variety. It is a place where though we are fully alive in God, this does not erase our individuality. Instead, it gives it to us. We are not assimilated to the Borg or melted into the “One” or the “World Soul.” Jesus promises that he loves us as persons—and persons we will remain, reflecting in our own unique way the glory of God forever.
Second, they are dwelling places—places to remain. “Mansion” is a good term if you know a little Latin. The word “mansion” comes from “manere”, which translates to remain. In this life, we have no abiding city, for we are ultimately citizens of the heavenly city. That is our destination, our permanent address. And the determining factor in whether we get there is whether we stick close to the way—Jesus—in this journey.
In your prayer today, meditate a little upon times when you have not felt fully yourself or fully at home. Perhaps now is one of those times. Then ask the Holy Spirit to keep before your eyes the way that is Jesus and the goal that is the Father’s house.
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