“Life as Pilgrimage: From the Father Back to the Father by Way of Jesus”, by Fr. Baltazar Obico, OFM, 5th Sunday of Easter Reflection

Majority of us go through life and living without pondering on the question of life itself. Who am I? A question that can be answered if prior questions of “Where do I come from?”“Where am I going?” are answered. Or “What’s the point of being here?” Our time and energy are not sufficient to cope with our daily concerns; we are glad to leave those questions about the meaning of life to armchair theologians and pulpit preachers.

However there are times when we are forced to pause because something happens that throw our routine off balance. Like the sudden death of someone very close to us which leaves us dumbfounded. Questions which we don’t bother to raise suddenly preoccupy us. Ventures, dreams and activities, goals which we considered to be important and which consume our energy and time, begin to look inconsequential against the reality of loss.

We ponder “Where are we going?” We might going in circles, not really getting anywhere. We feel like children taking those carnival rides – ferries wheel or roller coaster – arriving at the same spot where we depart, dizzy and dazed after the ride.

GOSPEL (John 14:1-12)
An experience of profound loss makes us question our direction in life. Jesus shows us that it is not different for the disciples. Today’s Gospel belong to Jesus’ farewell discourse before leaving his close followers. Jesus knew the pain and anxiety that this departure would cause on the hearts of his disciples. He counsels them not to be afraid, for he is going to prepare a place for them and will return to take them with him. Jesus’ remedy is faith in God and in Himself. But if faith is going to calm emotional distress, it needs to be understood. Jesus is trying to give his disciples a different mental framework that will bring them peace. But it goes right overtheir heads, as all they fathom is loss and this sense of loss triggers sadness and fear. Since theology did not help the disciples, Jesus tried a metaphor. Jesus envisions reality as his Father’s house. A comforting image of a home where we can all be together. He will come back and take us there. Love can endure temporary separation. But it can not abide permanent loss. Jesus assures them that they know where he is going and the way he is taking.

1. Life is a journey, a voyageto explore who at depth we really are. This entails not only discovery, but requires also an integration of their newly found aspect of their lives. New life means letting go of the known, the practiced. We seek to hold on to what has served us well in the past, whether it be values, dress, behaviors, look. We try to put the clock back (some with unfortunate results). That is why beauty products and the cosmetic industry are one of the most lucrative business nowadays. We refuse to let go of our youth, fearful of growing old, wrinkles and all!

If life is a journey, then we must constantly be on the move; there is never a point in this life that we can say we have arrived; there will always be an ongoing process of conversion.

2. Life as a journey entails different ways of looking at death as the concluding moments of our journey. Jesus is seeking to calm their hearts by re-interpreting death as departure and their loss as temporary because they will be reunited in the Father’s house. Hence death is a homecoming. It is coming back to where we came from, the bosom of the Father. It need not take us by surprise. The whole of life is filled with opportunities to rehearse this final massage. The letting go of youth, of health, of plans, of friends, when this is asked of us can all become a preparation for the last great renunciation that each of us is called upon to make. To befriend death throughtaking time a ponder on the richness of its meaning will help come to peace with the thought of dying. It is step each one must take alone.

No one else can share it as they have shared our living. A fuller appreciation of where life leads to in death is the bringing back to our consciousness a truth which we have conveniently and aggressively set aside – the truth that we all come from God. We take time to recall how surely God has held us through the many little deaths of life; any fear should be allayed. We know that he will sustain us surely at those concluding moments of our pilgrimage.

Brothers and sisters, we come from the Father, unto the Father we shall return, by the way of the Son.We have an astonishing origin, and a marvelous future that awaits us, because Jesus is the WAY.

More about Fr. Tasang and his reflections.