Last week we heard from John chapter 10 where Jesus revealed two titles. One, that He is the Good Shepherd who will seek and gather all the sheep, especially those that are lost; and second, Jesus said that He is the Gate- the only entry to salvation. Today we pick up a few chapters later, but we continue Jesus’ revelation of Himself and teaching to his disciples. If you look at John’s Gospel, beginning in chapter 13, we get an account of the Last Supper, and then in John chapters 14 through 17 we have what is sometimes called the farewell discourse. It’s Jesus's teachings to the apostles at the Last Supper, but not on the Eucharist per se, but rather on what their lives will be like and what they will be engaged in after he has died, risen and ascended into heaven. So let's peek into what's going on at the Last Supper and see what Jesus says to his disciples.
Jesus is giving his disciples a word of encouragement in the face of his impending death, saying “don't let your hearts be troubled because in my Father's house there are many dwelling places and I'm going to prepare a place for you.” Some bibles have translated this verse as mansions, so that Jesus is going to prepare a mansion for us in Heaven. I picture a huge neighborhood of different houses that is just perfect for each resident. And so some people think that Jesus is the best realtor or contractor that really understands our wish list- and not only finds but builds a perfect place that has all that we want but also everything we could ever want- our mansion would be nearby any loved ones, it is close to our favorite places and amenities; so some think our dwelling place in Heaven is like the perfect house, in the perfect location, that is in the city called Heaven, and God has prepared that place just for us. Nice thought, but this verse isn’t a mansion for us, but literally means a dwelling place- a place where you stay, a place to remain. Obviously, Jesus is not talking about a physical home, so what is the place Jesus is referring to? He gives us a hint- he says, “I will come again and take you to myself, so that where I am there you will also be” and, “the Father is in me and I am in the Father”. This dwelling place, this place to remain is something that Jesus said over and over again, that he wants to remain in us and us to remain in him. So our perfect dwelling place isn’t a physical place that He has made for us as much as it is a spiritual fulfillment for which we are changed; we are changed until we are made for Him and are grafted into Him. Heaven is united intimacy where we are one with and in Him. Therefore, when we picture our dwelling place of God we must picture intimacy with God, him dwelling in us.
The disciples would have understood the depth of meaning in Jesus’ words- “I will go and prepare a place for you then come back and take you to myself”. In a first century Jewish setting, the imagery here is evocative because he is also using the language that would have been associated with the Jewish bridegroom. One of the customs of a bridegroom is that when the bridegroom and bride in Judaism would be betrothed (somewhat similar to engagement today), the man and woman would be legally married but they would not live together yet. Rather, the bridegroom and bride would be separated for some time while the bridegroom would go off and do certain things to prepare. Among other things would be to build a home, to build a house for the bride. And so the wedding ceremony was really the procession of carrying the bride into the bridegroom's home so that the marriage could then be consummated and the intimate love shared. Therefore, by saying, “I will go and prepare a place for you then come back and take you to myself”, Jesus is describing himself as the bridegroom, the disciples collectively as the Church, which is his bride. And the imagery continues, and so heaven is his Father's house. The place Jesus has prepared for us, His Church, His bride, is an intimate place of oneness and unity in God and each other. Heaven is the very love of the Trinity- it is the heart of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and so we are prepared to dwell in the very life and love of God.
So how do we get to Heaven? Jesus famously teaches, “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father except through me”. Therefore, as Jesus said in last week’s Gospel, He is the gate- He is the only entrance into Heaven. He is the path, if we are striving to live our lives in Him and by his commands, then we are on the way to Heaven. We might all have different paths to get there, but in the end we all have to go through Jesus.
Jesus is the Truth. It is not a subjective truth…my truth, it is not my Heaven, what I want it to be, what I believe it to be. No, we have to be conformed into Christ- our will, our desires grafted, transformed into His. There are so many different religions saying they are the way to God, and many more different Christian denominations- all claiming to have the truth, all claiming to be ‘the Church’. However, Jesus Christ who is the Truth, didn’t start thousands of churches with different truths; rather He only has one bride. He founded one faith, one Church, and He gave that Church the “fullness of truth and the fullness of means of salvation”. Not only faith, but history tells us the only Church Jesus Christ started is known as the Catholic Church. It is within her, the bride of Christ, that the fullness of Truth resides. It is good that many of our separated brothers and sisters deeply love our Lord, and that they are sincerely seeking Him. And there are many elements of truth and unity in them, but there are also many differences, and God wants (and we should want) everyone to know and have the fullness in His one Church. Therefore, whichever denomination one is in, including if we are Catholic, we have to ask ourselves, do I know the truth? Am I seeking to know and live the Truth, for all beliefs can’t be perfectly true, and the truth doesn’t change for each person. Part of the reason, I believe, why there are so many faiths which all believe is true, is because Catholics do not know and are not united in living the Truth Jesus Christ has revealed to her. However, I believe that everyone who is genuinely seeking Him, who is genuinely seeking the Truth, finds it in Jesus, and in the One Church which is His bride; about whom He said that He will always dwell within, that the netherworld will never prevail against it, and that He will safeguard it from teaching in error. This is our Catholic Church.
He is the Life. He is the source of life, and He is the fullness of life and happiness. If someone is outside the Church, if someone doesn’t know that they are meant to be a member of the bride of Christ, then they don’t know the fullness of life God wants for them- the fullness of the life of the Trinity. And that leads me to my final point.
Jesus ends today’s Gospel with an eye-opening statement to the disciples in verse 12 and following: "Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do; and will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father”. Have you ever wondered what Jesus meant by that? Jesus is saying- all the works that he did, all the miracles- the turning of water into wine, the multiplication of the loaves, all the many healings, the casting out demons, the raising from the dead- all of it those who believe in Him will do too. That might seem impossible for us, but read the Acts of the Apostles- they did those same miracles in Jesus’ name. Therefore, we should ask ourselves, do we really believe? Do we really believe God could do those same miracles through us today? Trust me, it is really possible, if we really believe.
But if that isn’t hard enough, Jesus says, “greater works than these will those who believe do, because I am going to the Father.” The greater works happen because Jesus ascends into heaven and sends the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who is going to empower the apostles not just to perform the kind of visible and material miracles that Jesus performed; but the Holy Spirit is going to empower the apostles to forgive sins in the power of confession. The Holy Spirit is going to empower the apostles to perform the Sacrament of Baptism, where Original Sin and the people’s sins are wiped away and they are made temples of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is going to empower the apostles to change bread and wine into the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. In other words, the greater works that the apostles will perform are the sacraments. Because although for most of us, we are more amazed by the visible, material miracles that Jesus performed in his lifetime, but Jesus is more correct to say that the Sacraments are actually greater miracles which He gave to the Catholic Church. You see, what Jesus did during his public ministry visibly through his visible miracles, pointed forward to the life God will give through the mysteries of the Sacraments. The miracles and healings Jesus performed made the person live better and longer physically on this earth, but it is the Sacraments that give us life eternally in Heaven. It is through the Sacraments that we are prepared for and receive the fullness of God’s love. It is through the Sacraments that we dwell and remain in the love of the Trinity. Philip says, “Show us the Father and that will be enough for us”… We say, ‘give us the Sacraments, and we will live in the Father’s love, and that will be enough for us’!BACK TO LIST