As we enter John 14, Jesus begins to give to his disciples very deep and sublime teachings concerning his person, his identity in relationship to the God of the universe, the Father. And he also begins to teach them just what all of this means and will mean to them personally after their world is turned upside down after his death and resurrection. I highly recommend to you, as we begin this study of John 14, an archived homily by Fr. Anthony Mary, given on April 27, 2013 during the morning mass over EWTN. It can be accessed in a somewhat complicated way, but well worth the effort to download on your computer. Go to http://www.ewtn.com/ and click on Faith(on the upper ribbon of choices). Choose Libraries, Audio. When you get there, click on Audio Archives and go to page 8, which you can choose at the bottom of the first page which pops up. Then choose Today’s Homily and again go to nearly the last page, which has the 2013 homilies archived. April 27, 2013 will show you Fr. Anthony’s name and you can download the homily from there. It will begin with the daily mass readings to orient you to Father’s homily. Truly, it is an excellent exposition of the trinitarian teachings Jesus is beginning to give us in John 14.
The first three verses of John 14 is probably the most frequently quoted passage in the New Testament during Christian funerals. When we are confronted with the death of a loved one, here is the place where we find the absolute center of the Reality for which we hope and to which we cling as human beings confronted with the most fundamental questions of all: Does God really exist? Is Jesus really God in the flesh? Do His promises hold? Can I truly live the faith I profess, as I somehow continue saying “yes” to life after this overwhelming loss? Is Jesus here for me and for all my loved ones?
St. Thomas reminds us that Jesus is consoling his followers in three ways in these verses: first, he expels their anxieties; second, he refers them to his power; and third, he adds a promise. In regards to the expulsion of anxieties, St. Thomas refers to Psalm 37:24, where we are continually assured throughout the Christian year that “when he falls, he shall not be hurled headlong, because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.” This is a tremendous consolation concerning the one who has died as well as those of us who are experiencing the seemingly unendurable loss related to the death.
Regarding Christ’s power, we are referred to John 6:29, Jesus’ great Bread of Life discourse, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” St. Thomas emphasizes that we are not asked simply to believe Christ, but to believe in Christ, fully assenting to his divinity, his equality with the Father.
And as for the consolation of Jesus’ promise, “And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also, ” St. Thomas says, “In this house, then, that is, in glory, which is God, are many rooms, that is, various participations in happiness….in the knowledge and enjoyment of God.”
“If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” (verse 9), is the question asked of a person by a true and trustworthy friend. It is closely related to the question Jesus asks Philip after his and Thomas’ doubt-filled hesitations reflected in the previous verses 5 and 8. Jesus asks, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip?” After three years of intimate, loving and miracle-filled relationship with Jesus, the Master’s questions must have struck the disciples very deeply. But the fear and confusion of the situation, during this night of betrayal and of quite imminent loss, had thrown everything into doubt, the way a personal crisis always does.
I think it is important to remember that it was the anguished question put to Jesus by the disciple Thomas (verse 5) which stimulated an answer, in one sentence, which, if we had no other scriptures at all, would be enough for us to hold on to and remain Christians for a lifetime: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me.”
“…the way”: Remember the verbal picture Jesus drew for Nathanael in John 1:51; and see Isaiah 30:20-21.
“…the truth”: See John 18:37-38.
“…the life”: Remember John 1:4 and John 10:10.
In John 14:14 Jesus rather recklessly holds out a promise which Christians have claimed and wrestled with throughout the centuries. It is still something for us to ponder and claim and wrestle with today–right now.
By the way, my May 24 post spoke of the prophecy of Zechariah in the Old Testament. Father Barron has a superb sermon for this Sunday, opening up the book of Zechariah in a very relevant way. I highly recommend it, at www.wordonfire.org/ If you select this week’s sermon in audio, over on the right side of his home page, you’ll hear it. If you tune in later to it, it will be found with his other audio sermons; it’s number 650.
Next week we will be introduced to the Holy Spirit, as Jesus continues his farewell discourse in John 14:15-31. By the way, the Magnificat editors have sent us, voluntarily and generously, ten copies of the July issue for those involved in Faith On the Ferry. Any extras they suggest we simply leave in the back of the church for whomever would like one. What an encouragement! Blessings, JC