Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Fifth Sunday of Easter

Perhaps like Thomas and Philip in today’s Gospel we often don't understand. That’s why Thomas’ question this morning, is such a relief. He puts it right out there. “Master, we don’t know where you going. How can we know the way?” The other disciples were all probably thinking the same thing, but did not dare to ask. Said another way: “Why does following you have to be so puzzling?” Or “Why can’t things be clearer?” “I don’t understand the way you do things.” “Why can’t things simply remain the same?”  And further removed as we are, having never encountered Jesus in the flesh, perhaps our faith needs to be even deeper than theirs. That’s why Thomas’ candor is so refreshing. Very soon as we approach Pentecost, we will hear the Lord say: “It is better for you that I go.” If only Thomas were there that day too to say, “Please remind why this is better, because I’m just not getting it. I don’t understand. I just want you to stay.”

That’s what Jesus wants too, simply to have those he loves remain with him, abide in him. And so he assures us, "I am the way and the truth and the life." In other words, “I am the way that leads through darkness and confusion, obscurity and doubt; through seeming absence to a richer, darker, mysterious presence.” He draws us higher to the place that he is preparing for us, the place of our belovedness. Jesus clearly understands himself as the Beloved of his Father. (How else could he have made it through the horror of his passion?) And he envisions the same identity for us, and says that where he is, there will we be- hidden in the bosom of the Father. “I will come back again and take you to myself,” he says, “so that where I am you also may be.” For all our lack of understanding, certainly these words of Jesus are tremendously consoling. “I will take you to myself.” Where else would any of us want to be?

And so we continue to hold fast to his promise, for only love and surrender to him can quiet our questioning. Jesus is taking us to himself. And as we hold fast to him in faith, all is still deep, dark mystery. As monks this where we live- in this land of desire, somehow suspended between heaven and earth, getting glimpses of heavenly communion, visits of the Word, noticing his kind and loving presence but more often left hanging, because our desire often outstrips our understanding. We’re left suspended, longing for more, but often losing our way. This is where we live, in this in-between place, poised in faith between a promised heavenly homeland and our present earthly existence; puzzled and sometimes impatient because earthly existence even for all its ambiguities is at least tangible and real. And here we wait in joyful hope, doing what is ordinary, for this is exactly where Jesus promises to find us.

Photograph by Charles O'Connor.