Jesus’ Farewell Discourse: What To Do When We Know Things Are Coming To An End (Gospel Reflection)
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One of the best ways to enrich your experience at Sunday Mass is to pray the Mass Readings personally and to meditate on a Gospel reflection.
A great way of doing this is using the technique of Lectio Divina, a powerful method which we explain here. The following is the Sunday Gospel reading with a reflection that is especially aimed at youth.
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We hope that it serves you in your personal prayer and that it serves as a resource that you can share with your apostolate.
Gospel of the Fifth Sunday of Easter (John 14: 1-12)
Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where I am going you know the way.”
Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?”
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Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
Philip said to him, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.”
Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.”
The Gospel of the Lord
When someone we are very close with leaves us we may feel like the cord that held us up has snapped and that we are falling through a void. We shout hoping that someone hears us and can retie the knot.
The separation from those that we love is accompanied by emotions that make us feel absence. It is as if we now carry within ourselves a void that no one else can fill. Trying to fill it is useless: the emptiness is there to stay.
In times of separation we show what we are truly made of. It is then that we show what that bond truly meant to us. It is then that we show how much we loved. It is then that our deepest fears emerge, that up until now, we had been able to hide.
Our last words are only the essential ones. There’s no more time, for we will likely never have another chance to say what we hold in our hearts.
Today’s Gospel tells us the final words of Jesus to his disciples. Supper ended not long ago, their last. It is time to say what matters most. It is also the time when the deepest fears come to light.
The first is the fear of being left utterly alone. We need reassurance.
It was common in the ancient world to split an object in half, each person receiving part, until the day came that they could be reunited (syn-ballo: I put together, from which we get the word symbol).
Knowing perhaps our forgetfulness and our disorder, Jesus does not leave us with a piece but with his whole self. He leaves us the bread and wine in which we can recognize his true presence, his body and blood. In the Last Supper in fact, Jesus gives himself over so that he may be found again, precisely when the disciples feared losing him.
Jesus’ words are reassuring: “I will take you to myself”; “so that where I am you also may be.” They are words of someone who sees fear in the eyes of the one being left behind.
There is no image more reassuring than the home, in fact, it is there that Jesus awaits us: in my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. The house is an intimate place, the home of our relationships. Jesus speaks of a house where there is room, a house that is welcoming. We know well that the house is a representation of our own selves. As children, among the first things we learn to draw is the house. A child represents himself indirectly through the image of the house.
In the house of the Father, Jesus says, there is always room. That is, in the life of the Father (and in that of Jesus, who is life itself) there is always room. His life is welcoming – a life lived for others. Jesus is telling his friends that there will always be room in his life for them.
The feeling of abandonment is accompanied by the sensation of losing oneself. The absence of the other makes us lose our point of reference. The other is a direction. Their absence throws us into a state of confusion: what will I do now?
Jesus too saw the confusion of his disciples. Thomas asks which way to go because he already felt lost. But sometimes when we are lost the only thing we can do is wait for someone to find us.
Thomas is the voice of autonomy and self-sufficiency: he would like to find the way by himself, he wants to be the protagonist of his path, he wants to show that he’s capable of doing it on his own. Jesus invites him to wait and to recognize that “no one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus is the way. We must let ourselves be found by the shepherd that seeks out his sheep.
When we feel abandoned, we feel like orphans.
Philip wants to see the Father because he needs to rediscover his origin, his roots, his story. Seeking the Father means seeking out who I am, my identity, where I come from. The Father is the one that gives us our inheritance and allows us to build a future for ourselves.
Feeling abandoned means no longer hoping for tomorrow. Feeling abandoned means feeling deprived, not only of the past, but also of the future.
Perhaps this is why Jesus uses such fatherly words: “whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these.” These are the same words that every son wishes to hear from his father.
Just like the disciples, we too are wounded with this fear.
Life continually requires us to leave, to say goodbye, or to turn the page. But in every one of these moments we are not alone, even if we are tempted to think that we have been abandoned, lost, orphaned.
Questions for Personal Meditation:
- What are the fears that I experience at this point in my life?
- How do I confront them?