EASTER V (A)
If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself. - John 14: 3
There is a story which seems to me to flesh out what our Lord is telling us in today’s Gospel. It goes like this:
A long time ago there lived a little boy whose parents had died. He was taken in by an aunt who raised him as her own child. Years later, after he had grown up & left his aunt, he received a letter from her. She was in terminal illness &, from the tone of her letter, he knew she was afraid of death. This man, whom she had raised & touched, wrote her a letter in which he said:
It is now thirty-five years since I, a little boy of six, was left quite alone in the world. You sent me word that you would give me a home & be a mother to me. I’ve never forgotten the day when I made the long journey of ten miles to your house. I can still recall my disappointment when instead of coming for me yourself, you sent your servant, Caesar, a dark man, to fetch me. I well remember my tears & my anxiety as, perched high on your horse & clinging tight to Caesar, I rode off to my new home.
Night fell before we finished the journey & as it grew dark, I became even more afraid. “Do you think she’ll go to bed before I get there?” I asked Caesar anxiously. “Oh no,” said Caesar, “She’s sure to stay up for you. When we get out of these woods, you’ll see her light shining in the window.”
Presently, we did ride out into the clearing & there was your light. I remember that you were waiting at the door, that you put your arms tight around me, that you lifted me, a tired, frightened little boy, down from the horse. You had a fire burning on the hearth, a hot supper waiting on the stove. After supper you took me to my new room. You heard me say my prayers. Then you sat with me until I fell asleep.
You probably realize why I am trying to recall this to your memory now. Very soon, God is going to send for you, & take you to a new home. I’m trying to tell you that you needn’t be afraid of the summons or of the strange journey or of the dark messenger of death. God can be trusted. God can be trusted to do as much for you as you did for me so many years ago.
At the end of the road you’ll find love & a welcome waiting. And you’ll be safe in God’s care. I’m going to watch & pray for you until you’re out of sight. And I shall wait for the day when I make the same journey myself & find you waiting at the end of the road to greet me.
Notice the metaphors & symbols which make this story a kind of allegory: Caesar, the dark figure is death; the light at the end of the journey is Jesus, the light of the world. The house is the “many rooms” in the Father’s house the Jesus promised. The supper is the heavenly banquet. God is the loving aunt. It’s a homecoming story. It is gospel.
When someone we cherish dies, there is often little that we can say; & indeed, if we try it seems to trivialize so great a mystery as death. Selfishly, we are sad that he or she is gone. But we can also be glad that he or she is at home with the Good Shepherd who would leave the ninety-nine sheep to find the one lost sheep.
It is frightening to be all alone in the world. But the Christian soul also has the consolation of knowing that He who went to such lengths to redeem us & give us abundant life will never abandon us in the midst of those fears. AMEN!