Fifth Sunday of Easter

I am going away

The Gospel today is one you very likely have heard before at a funeral. We have, like Thomas, many question, doubts and fears. But if we listen to how Jesus responded to him, we can take heart.

Parting is such sweet sorrow. Departures at an airport – especially at Shannon for example – can be heart-wrenching, as emigration has reared its ugly head among us once more. There is real fear, anxiety, uncertainty when such a definite decision is made to live abroad and down roots permanently.

When a person dies, we are always ever conscious of the empty room at home where they lived, slept, or the empty chair at table where once they sat. There remains an empty space in our hearts. But we can take heart today that while they are invisible to our sight, they are in His loving care.

In today’s Gospel it is Jesus who must now go – it is part of God’s plan that He must leave His disciples. Jesus is about to depart but with the promise that there are “many rooms” in his Father’s mansion. These words console us too as a time of grieving.

Jesus goes in order to prepare a place for us.

If a year’s preparation went in to the Queen’s visit in an effort to cover all eventualities, how much more trouble will Jesus go to on our account for a permanent place in heaven?

Jesus says these words at the Last Supper –He wishes to re-assure His followers that all will be well and everything will work out for the good in the end. He also promises that He is coming in person to take them – and us –in the words of last Sunday’s Gospel ‘one by one’ he leads us.

A Jewish nurse who worked for 20 years in a hospice for the dying in New Jersey was asked if there was any common feature in all the natural deaths of persons she witnessed, and she remarked that ‘someone always comes for them; there is a hint of recognition in their eyes and their face responds to someone’s presence, before their expression changes and they fall asleep forever.’ Time and again talking to grieving families, there are occasions when a dying loved one mentions the name of a long dead brother, sister or parent or spouse. They may even mention that they see them or mention them by name when their own death is imminent.

We often need to be reassured of these truths about what ultimately faces us all. It is good to remember that every Mass we pray these words:

“We are waiting in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour Jesus Christ.”

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