"Do not let your hearts be troubled"

The Gospel reading for Friday of the Fourth Week of Easter is also one of the most familiar Christian funeral readings: the Lord's promise that in his Father's house there are many mansions. This image of the Lord preparing a place for us is, indeed, a great consolation...but it doesn't need to be reserved just for funerals.

It is an idea as applicable in this life as it is in the next.

Notice that Jesus doesn't tie this promise to any death other than his own. He tells the Apostles: " I am going to prepare a place for you." The 'going' is his own death on the cross, which will happen the following day. Then he encourages them: "I will come back again and take you to myself."

This 'coming back' is not something for a mysterious future time...in the context of this reading, Jesus is coming back quite literally in a little over three day's time in the Resurrection.

He is the Way, and the destination is the Father...and there is no mention of having to die to take him up on his offer.

In fact, St. Teresa of Avila saw this image of the 'mansions' as evocative of the situation of God and the human soul. In her book The Interior Castle (in Spanish: Las Moradas, literally 'the mansions') she says:
I thought of the soul as resembling a castle, formed of a single diamond or a very transparent crystal,and containing many rooms, just as in heaven there are many mansions. If we reflect, sisters, we shall see that the soul of the just man is but a paradise, in which, God tells us, He takes His delight. (The Interior Castle, I.2)

St. Teresa goes on to describe this interior castle as nothing less than the dwelling place of God:
Let us imagine, as I said, that there are many rooms in this castle, of which some are above, some below, others at the side; in the center, in the very midst of them all, is the principal chamber in which God and the soul hold their most secret intercourse. (The Interior Castle, I.4)
This reflects an important Christian doctrine that is all too easily forgotten: the life of the Holy Trinity dwells within the souls of the faithful. God is not far away, up in the sky. Rather God is inside, at the center of this magnificent castle we call the soul.

The Lord is making a promise, then, to lead us on an interior journey: to be "the way and the truth and the life" that brings us to the Father, not just in the next life...but in this one.

So, let us not neglect that interior journey. What a pity to wait for the day of our funeral Mass to begin discovering the beauty of the mansion that God has prepared for us through the death and resurrection of his only-begotten Son.

It is so much better to begin now, sweeping out the muck and mire that has accumulated in the courtyard of that magnificent castle of our soul and then starting the great adventure of journeying through its many secret rooms to find the One who already dwells within.

May Jesus be your sure guide on that journey!

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