Many Dwelling Places

“In my father’s house there are many dwelling places,” says Jesus in today’s Gospel reading.  And these days the image that comes to mind is that miniscule sector of sky that we got to witness through the lens of the James Webb telescope recently, a tiny patch in which there were thousands of galaxies, billions of stars.  Yes, indeed, in God’s house there are many, many dwelling places.

Friday I went to the funeral of one of Rosean’s mentors.  At the beginning of the service her cremains were sprinkled with holy water as a reminder of her baptism.  This is one of Christ’s own, we were given to understand, going to the place he has prepared just for her.

Strangely it’s a paradox I am not having trouble accepting: that God, author of the “vast expanse of interstellar space” as we say, knows me intimately and personally, loves me, and has a place for me that can only be filled by me. It is my destiny, as one of his own, to be going there.  At some level I really get this.

The image of the caterpillar metamorphosed into a butterfly may seem trite, but it is feeling more and more apt to me.  I think we truly will be transformed into something quite different when we die.  And yet we are still intrinsically us.  We have it in our spiritual DNA to be transformed, just as the caterpillar has it in its DNA to become a butterfly.  Somewhere deep inside, we know we are headed for this transformation, and we know that through it and beyond it we will remain us.  It will be a process.  We have probably already begun it.  As we grow in our experience of prayer and of faith the cocoon is invisibly sheltering our psyches and tiny wing buds are beginning.

“How can we know the way?” asks Thomas.  “I am the way,” replies Jesus.  “The way, the truth, and the life.”  This is a statement that must be contemplated with an open heart.  It is not something to reduce to a formula or a doctrine.  It must be held up alongside the images from the James Webb telescope.  For this Jesus who is the Way is not the man who was the founder of Christianity.  No, he is instead the Christ, an aspect of the living God, alive before the foundations of creation.  He is a living paradox, always more substantial and more complex than anything we can say about him and yet also always present in an intimate, loving way to each of us.

Following him does not mean repeating “I believe” statements about him; it means opening ourselves to a change of consciousness. It means opening the eyes and ears of our hearts to the life he lived and the parables he shared and the healings and the suffering and the glory, so that we can be transformed.  It means being in relationship with him in a way that does transform.

I live in faith that he will come and take me to himself at my death, and where he is there I will be also.  But the process has already begun.  In this moment, in the little ways in which I am able to be open, I’m already on the Way.

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