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The Fifth Sunday of Easter: Saying Good-bye—Blessed Assurance


“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1-3).
 
Three months after my brother Paul was diagnosed with metastasized cancer, he was in the hospital and dying. He was the father of 7 and the grandfather of 13 and had lived a full life. However, we were in disbelief and shock at the suddenness of his deterioration. Two days before he passed away, he rallied and asked to speak privately with his wife of more than 50 years and their eldest son. He spoke of his deep love for his wife and each of his children, and then he told his eldest to “take care of your mother” and, most importantly, “do not fight with her.” He then told my nephew, “Love your two boys, and bring them up with good moral values and faith.” Paul asked his son to kiss him goodbye—my nephew doesn’t remember kissing his dad since he was a little boy. The origin of the word “good-bye” is “God be with you.” My brother assured his beloved wife and oldest child that all would be well—God was with them. Paul trusted that God had a place for him and that God would allow Paul to watch over his family.
 
Jesus begins his good-byes to his disciples, a few days before his death, with a comforting idea for those who are anxious about what happens when our lives are over. Jesus assures his friends that they need not worry: he is going to prepare the way before them. Put in everyday language, it may sound like this: “We have plenty of room, and we will welcome you.” “Many dwelling places” means a place for everyone. It is not a matter of better or worse, a mansion or a small apartment. There is no consideration of being able to pay the mortgage or afford the rent. Jesus says, “Where I am, there you may be also” (3)—not only now but forever.
 
Thomas then speaks for all of us when he asks for more information. How can we know the way? “The Way” is a code word for the new path to union with God. Following Christ, who is the way, is a total re-orientation of our lives toward God. This re-orientation awakens us to new life, just as Lazarus experienced a return to life upon hearing the words of Jesus. Jesus, as he assures Thomas, is the way, and the Father and Jesus are one. Philip then asks Jesus the obvious: “Show us the Father.” And Jesus, a bit exasperated, answers Philip’s question with a totally new vision of God: “I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (10, 11). That is an explanation of the message of incarnation proclaimed in the first words of this Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (1:1). Jesus is the Word of God in our midst—not metaphorically, but truly with and among us. Jesus makes it clear that God is not “up there” but here among us, as the word “Emmanuel” signifies: “with us is God.”
 
Jesus assures us that “with us is God” as he shows us the way of love in the ups and downs of life, in sickness and in health, and especially on our journey from death to life. He reminds us in this good-bye scene not to be anxious; wherever we are and whatever situation we find ourselves in, there God will also be.
 
Sr. Terry Rickard is the Executive Director of RENEW International and a Dominican Sister from Blauvelt, NY.

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