The coordinator of our Daily Reflection site gives those of us who volunteer deadlines for when our reflection should be submitted to her. I admit that I was late this time, and so when I sat down to write this reflection I did something that I normally do not do – peeked at the reflections that preceded and followed mine. It was very interesting to see that the gospel reading for yesterday and tomorrow come from the same segment of John as the one I have today. The setting is Jesus’ last discourse with the disciples prior to His arrest in the garden. It is a little counterintuitive for me, the linear thinker, to have yesterday’s reflection, written by Fr. Lannon, and tomorrow’s written by Fr. Hauser (I am in good company here!) reflect on a gospel reading that follows mine. Not sure why those who put together the lectionary did that, but perhaps it has to do with emphasizing an important point with multiple tellings.
So, Jesus is trying to calm the company. They have forebodings of what is to come shortly. They may not fully grasp the horror of Jesus’ impending death, but they know something bad is going to happen soon. And He wants to calm them, to reassure them, to reinforce what He has taught them over their time together.
Jesus tells them He is going to prepare a “place” for them in His Father’s “house,” and that they know the way to this place. Pragmatic Thomas, ever literal, protests that if they don’t know where He is going (that is, they don’t know where this “place” is), how can they know the way. Jesus reassures him that they do know the way – that Jesus and His way is the path to follow.
I can relate to this on many levels. On Thomas’ literal level, we can all relate to not knowing the right path if we don’t know the right destination. One of the challenges I face when I assist non-profit organizations with their strategic planning is helping them focus on the destination their organization is called to follow. Once they can clarify the true destination, the paths become much clearer.
My sister recently died, and as she lived her last months, first at home and then in hospice, I observed as she accepted her coming death, and clarified for herself what that would mean. She went through a burst of activity trying to take care of last minute earthly concerns, but she also returned to a place of faith and surrender to what her death meant in God’s grand plan.
Jesus talks of a “place” in His Father’s “house,” and we all (if we are honest with ourselves) admit to the anxiety of knowing what comes next. In Jesus’ time death was generally observed as an end of existence. There were competing schools of thought about existence after earthly life and whether there is a heaven and what it would entail. Our Christian faith informs us of a “coming home” to Jesus and God, an existence of re-union with the Almighty. A recent article by Jon Meacham in the April 16 issue of Time titled “Rethinking Heaven” raises some interesting points about some current theological thinking about what heaven means as a “place.” These current scholars suggest that heaven may not be a “place” of harps and wings but in fact may be a reconstituted Kingdom of Heaven on earth – a physical resurrection of all souls who live in harmony in an Eden-like setting on a physical earth.
I don’t know what will come after my own death, and I don’t know what resurrection will mean. Those are mysteries and I will have to wait before I can fully understand them. But I do know that I can live my life following the example of Jesus. When He says “I am the way and the truth and the life” I recall the incidents from His life when He did what He could to ease pain, to heal, to accept, to reassure, to care for those people He encountered who had need of relief from some human suffering. And I believe that if I can do this, and you can do this, and enough other people can do this, regardless of what comes after our death, we will collectively make this world we inhabit now a better place, a welcoming place – in fact the Kingdom of God. If we can do this, when the time comes for our death, we would leave a legacy most pleasing to God.
And so my prayer today is for the grace to reach out, to comfort, to console, to accept and to ease, one person at a time, as did Jesus – my guide, my way, my truth, my life.
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