On John 14:1-12.
Jesus said to his disciples: Do not let your hearts be troubled. We are at the Last Supper, according to the account of St. John. Jesus has washed his disciples’ feet. He has watched Judas go out on his mission of betrayal. He has declared his own imminent departure, given his new commandment, and predicted the three-fold denial by Peter. Now he bids farewell to his disciples. And the words he speaks now are the words of God: full of the Holy Spirit; of encouragement for us, and consolation. The passage we read today, so serene, so sublime, is often and appropriately read at funerals. But now we hear it in Eastertide, because we find here our Easter faith.
We are Christians. By definition, we are those who believe in Jesus, the Son of God, our Saviour, our Lord; Jesus who is our way to God; Jesus who is himself our Salvation. In today’s Gospel we hear Jesus putting himself unambiguously on a level with God his Father, identifying himself with God. He does so always for our benefit, not his; in terms of humility, and of love.
Trust or believe in God, he says, believe in me. If you know me, you know my Father too. Whoever sees me, sees the Father. I am in the Father and the Father is in me.
We are Christians. By definition, then, we are those who believe, who know that our hope is not for this life only (cf. 1 Cor 15:19). Our whole life on this earth is orientated, directed, hastening towards an infinitely better life that is to come; towards our true homeland, and only resting place; towards the house of our Father in heaven. This is not myth, or fantasy, or mere wishful thinking. On the contrary: this is revealed truth, ultimate reality, and the key to understanding everything in this life. We know it because Jesus has promised it. We know that Jesus speaks the truth, and with authority: because of who he is, and because he died for us, and rose again, and sent the Holy Spirit as his witness. If we follow the way he has gone, we will receive the life he offers: so that where I am, you may be too.
We are Christians. By definition, then, we are those who sing the new song of the Lord. Cantate Domino canticum novum! (Ps 97), we sang at the beginning of Mass today. Our ceaseless song is Alleluia! It’s a cry of victory; of praise and thanksgiving; of confident faith; of rejoicing that will have no end. One of the things that monks have to do is keep that song of Alleluia going in the Church. In these days of Eastertide also, so beautifully, we monks get to sing the very words of Jesus in his last discourse, set to Gregorian Chant. We sing them as meditation, as prayer, as offerings of homage. And always, at the end of each brief selected text, we add the word “Alleluia”!
How do we live our Easter faith in Eastertide? The Church wants us in these days to remain with the Lord in quiet contemplation; to put aside our worries, and fears, and doubts; to look up, and look forward. Heaven lies ahead of us; but also for those who belong to Jesus, it’s already a present reality. Of course heaven utterly exceeds our imagination. In that respect, with the Apostle Thomas, we can rightly say: we do not know where you are going. Yet already we touch heaven, we know it, we simply find ourselves in it, in our prayer. We are in heaven when we are with God, and he with us. We touch heaven too when we assist at Holy Mass, and come to Holy Communion, and know that Jesus is with us, and in us; when we rejoice in that, and resolve never to be parted from him.
Jesus said to his disciples: Do not let your hearts be troubled.
This saying of Jesus is all the more remarkable, in that he himself was very deeply troubled. In Chapter twelve of St. John’s Gospel, we hear Jesus saying: And now my soul is troubled (12:27). Before the tomb of Lazarus he distressed himself and wept openly (11:34-35). Jesus knows, then, at first hand, the anguish and grief of this life. In the context of the Last Supper, Jesus is preparing his disciples for his forthcoming passion and crucifixion and death, and for their own failure and flight. And yet he says: Do not let your hearts be troubled.
That is: God will seem to be absent from what is to come, but he won’t be. On the contrary, precisely he will be working out his purposes, in a most wonderful way, for our good, and his own glory. And this will remain true in every situation in life, however apparently meaningless or terrible. If we belong to Jesus, we have good reason not to be troubled. Abide with Jesus in the love of his Father. Be conformed to him in selfgiving love. Be modelled after his pattern of humility and obedience, and a life of ceaseless intercession. Then you will also be able to endure with him your cross, and so share in his resurrection.
These days we are very aware of the centenary of Our Lady of Fatima. It could be good to read the Fatima event in the light of today’s Gospel.
Do not let your hearts be troubled, said Jesus. Yes, Our Lady reminds us of the reality of hell. She points to the possibility of another world war. She underlines how calamitous it is to live without faith. Yet she is the one who is supremely and perfectly united with Jesus in heaven, and from there she reaches out to us in love. She calls us, warns us, rebukes us, guides us. Stay close to Jesus, she says. Listen to him. Look at him. Imitate him. Abide with him. Love him. Pray a lot. Be very certain that to have faith in Jesus, to know him and to love him is incomparably the greatest blessing that life can give us. The only real calamity is to be separated from him. Everything else is relative, and passing. This will last forever.