Do you still believe in heaven?
Easter Week 5 Sunday Year A (John 14: 1-12)
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Jesus the Way to the Father Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
Do you still believe in heaven? Well – Yes, but does it feature much in your consciousness? When I was growing up in the early 1950’s, just after the Second World War (after all it was the Second and there was great anxiety about a Third World War), life was tough. With a background of bombing and many people knowing someone who had suffered in the war, preachers had no difficulty in talking about the 4 last things: death, judgment heaven and hell. Heaven, at least, was something to look forward to.
Do we need heaven now we have near-Utopia here? Sky (another word for heaven) Sky TV can offer every goal of every game. Then there is BT TV infinity (what on earth does that mean?). For whatever reason, the consumerist culture, secular values of our age, or our own selfish/ hedonistic tendencies, you could say we have pie on earth. We don’t need to look for pie in the sky. Moreover, isn’t our own religion incarnational? God became human. Isn’t our world charged with the grandeur of God? Why look beyond?
In different ways but in simple words in today’s Gospel, Jesus talks about his return to heaven. He talks about returning to the Father; about there being many rooms in the heavenly palace and going to prepare rooms for the disciples; he talks about returning to take his disciples, including us, with him.
It is in this phrase with him that heaven begins to mean something to me. Speaking to the disciples, Jesus says that “where I am, you may be too”. Jesus wants us to be with him now in this world and hereafter in heaven. Heaven isn’t a place but a stable and secure relationship with Jesus: a relationship that exists now but is open to quality growth and infinite intimacy! Believing and trusting in Christ, we begin “to taste the wisdom of eternity” “I am the Way; I am Truth; I am Life”. “Stay with me. Believe in me/ Trust in me”
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Ian Tomlinson SJ