It is a rite of passage familiar to many parents—preparing a room for the new baby. When we were expecting our first child, I remember the excitement and joy we felt picking out colors and furniture for the baby’s room. Later, when we had more babies than bedrooms, we might not have been picking out colors and furniture, but our excitement and joy were the same. We dreamed of the “dwelling place” we wanted to create for the new arrival. How we yearned to shower them with love and help them realize their full potential. If we who are so fallible can imagine such things for our children, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him” (Matthew 7:11)—it is almost beyond wonder to contemplate Jesus’s promise to His disciples in today’s Gospel. Jesus Himself has designed a home for us in heaven, our eternal home, and what is more, He is going to come back and lead us there.
We can picture that the disciples sorely needed Jesus’s words of hope at that moment. Immediately preceding this Jesus has foretold His impending betrayal by a member of their group, that He would soon be leaving them and that Peter their stalwart leader would fail a test of loyalty before the night was over. The minds of the disciples must have been reeling, their hearts rent with anguish. Jesus’s message is simple and direct, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” (John 14:1) Unlike fallible human parents who, despite their best intentions will make many mistakes, the dwelling place Jesus prepares for us is perfect and eternal. If we can truly embrace and believe Jesus’ message, then how easy it would be to live with an untroubled heart!
Following Jesus as God
But what does it entail, this belief and following of Jesus? It is Thomas who plaintively asks, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” (John 14:5) Jesus’s answer is radical—believe in me as you believe in God. If you know me then you know the Father. Jesus is not offering a middle path of accepting Him as a prophet, a seer, a speaker of moral truths. Either accept Him as God or reject Him as, at best, a fraud.
For a first century Jew, this claim of divinity could surely be taken as apostasy. It is not so different in our time. We are conditioned to avoid absolutes, to see things in shades of gray. The claim of an ultimate Kingship runs counter to the demands of our own egos. On the night before he died Jesus offered his disciples further reasons for belief, “Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves” (John 14:11). We are fortunate to have even more reasons for belief: the crucifixion and resurrection; Jesus’s continued presence with us in the sacraments and in His Church. The path to an untroubled heart, the path to our eternal home, eternal dwelling is not always easy but it is simple – believe in Him!