As we move into the fifth week of Easter, the Church invites us, over the next two weeks, to reflect on what is commonly known as Jesus’ farewell discourse.
The Lord has just washed the disciples’ feet and now proceeds to speak to them about His going away. He tells them that where He is going, they cannot follow now but will do so later (Jn 13:36). Indeed, Jesus is going away to prepare a dwelling place for them in His Father’s house! He will then come back and take them to Himself, so that “where I am you may be also” (Jn 14:3). As you and I know, this is the whole point of the Incarnation in the first place, that humanity may come to be in intimate communion with God: that where God is, we may also be, and this, forever. Now, on the occasion in which Jesus speaks these words to the disciples, it is clear that He is talking about His imminent passion, death, and resurrection. Jesus is going away because He is going to the Cross to die. Moreover, it is precisely through His death and resurrection that He prepares a dwelling place for each of us. In other words, He goes away to undergo His Passion, without which we cannot enter into communion with God. However, once He has risen at Easter and appeared to the disciples, what is there to wait for? Is He still preparing our rooms? What are we to do while we wait? On the one hand, maybe we should take a hint from Thomas and not ask impertinent questions. But, on the other hand, we should be thankful to Thomas for asking because Jesus’ reply reveals the answers. To Thomas’s argument that they do not know the way, Jesus replies, “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn. 14:6). If the Father is the end, the objective, the eternal dwelling place for which our hearts were made, the only way to Him is Jesus. Implicit in Jesus’ reply is the recurrent gospel command: “Follow me!” Thus, to the query about what we are to do as we await His return, the Lord answers: “I’m the way, follow me, walk in my footsteps, imitate me!
Moreover, because Jesus is the truth, we are not deceived, and therefore, as we imitate and walk with Him, we come to know the Father and to experience already what we are walking towards. Like in any other endeavour in life, the result of following Jesus is already experienced in its doing. For instance, during his long days of walking under sun and rain, does the pilgrim not experience in anticipation the joy of the arrival? Or the student experience in anticipation of the accomplishment of his graduation, during his long nights of study? It is no different for us as we walk in Jesus’ footsteps: as we do so, we are already given to experience a foretaste of the fullness of truth and life towards which we are walking.
Therefore, there is nothing to wait for. By His death, resurrection and ascension, Jesus made all the preparations for us to enter the communion with God for which we were created. Admittedly, this is the future end toward which we presently walk. Yet, in our walking, we already experience it because when we draw close to Jesus, who is “the way, the truth and the life”, we commune with the Father and the Spirit.
Lastly, St. Peter tells us in the second reading that as we walk with Jesus and by the grace of the Spirit strive to imitate Him, we ourselves are built into living stones, into spiritual houses (1 Pt 2:5). Thus, in this pilgrimage of life, we are not only given to experience the joy of that eternal dwelling place that we find in Jesus, but as we become more configured to Him, we ourselves are also built into spiritual dwelling places where other may come to meet the Lord.
Santiago Torres – St. Joseph Seminary, Edmonton, Alberta