Lord, we do not know where you are going.
This short phrase from today’s gospel can summarise how many of us feel after two months of Great Eucharistic Deprivation and – in many cases – facing personal or domestic challenges, troubles or tragedies caused directly and indirectly by the pandemic. Even if we fully accept the restrictions on the cognitive, logical level – which is extremely important – we might yet struggle deep in our hearts to grasp the meaning and to make sense of this whole situation. Created as rational creatures we crave understanding and logical explanation; having made sense of a particular problem is a halfway through towards solving it. Having understood my situation I can search for meaningful and effective means of sorting it out. It’s what doctors do: they must diagnose the problem, confirm it by tests and only then the right treatment can be applied.
Lord, we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way?
Our involuntary ignorance of the meaning of the current situation makes us struggle to find the way forward. Some recent polls show worryingly high increases in alcohol sales, domestic violence and mental health problems. They indicate difficulties in dealing with current challenges. Sometimes we lack the right tools, sometimes we don’t know how to use them.
Do not let your hearts be troubled.
Jesus utters these words to his closest disciples at the Last Supper. They sense that something bad is going to happen. Jesus tells them about making a sacrifice of himself, to which Peter responds with a very bold declaration: ‘Lord, I will lay down my life for you.’ (John 13:37). Jesus’ reply sounds very harsh: ‘Will you lay down your life for me? Very truly, I tell you, before the cock crows, you will have denied me three times.’ (John 13:38). Such a grim prediction must have shocked the disciples, so Jesus immediately adds: ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled.’ On what grounds should we not be afraid of problems and troubles? ‘Trust in God still, and trust in me.’ We trust that whatever happens to and around us, Jesus is in control and that it will lead to something greater and more beautiful. That’s the way we should interpret these words: ‘I am going now to prepare a place for you, and after I have gone and prepared you a place, I shall return to take you with me; so that where I am you may be too.’
Whoever believes in me will perform the same works as I do myself, he will perform even greater works.
Usually when we hear about Jesus’ works we automatically recall his various miracles. In the gospel of St John (astonishingly short of such spectacular doings) Jesus’ main work is His voluntary self-sacrifice made on the cross for the salvation of man. To achieve that, Jesus is unjustly sentenced, endures physical and mental tortures, finished by an excruciating, slow death on the cross. It’s easy to concentrate on the painful aspects of his passion as it is easy to focus on the negatives in our troubles. But for Jesus, all that pain is worth it for the sake of the final aim: conquering death by His resurrection. Such a perspective doesn’t make suffering and pain less painful, but by giving purpose to it makes it easier to endure it. Trusting Jesus doesn’t mean all my challenges, problems or troubles miraculously disappear. Trusting Jesus will help me to endure them and deliver something great for myself, my loved ones and the entire community of the Church.
We’ve just started a new week. We don’t really know what it will bring. However, we do know that we are one day closer to the end of this quarantine. ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God still, and trust in me.’