The Collect for the Fifth Sunday of Easter prays that the Father might bring to perfection within us the mystery of Easter. Once again we are reminded that the new life of Christ’s Resurrection continues to unfold in the Church, and, through the Spirit, is brought to perfection in the lives of those who believe.
Jesus fully understood that his disciples would struggle with the departure that his Ascension would seem to present. He was anxious to reassure them, and indeed ourselves, that his presence would continue amongst them.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God still, and trust in me. I am now going to prepare a place for you, and after I have gone and prepared you a place, I shall return and take you with me; so that where I am you may be too.” We have heard these words of promise at countless funerals, and have been comforted in the reassurance that those who have gone before us live forever in the presence of the Father and the Son: the Lord has taken them to himself.
But is this place with the Father, so carefully prepared by Jesus, something that is ours only after death? As Thomas continued the dialogue with his Lord, it became increasingly evident that this place with the Father is ours already. In response to the Lord’s assertion that his disciples already knew the way to the place where he was going, Thomas protested.
“Lord, we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Surely Thomas was putting into words the doubts and uncertainties of all believers who feel that theirs is a sometimes lonely journey into the presence of the Father. How can we, sinners that we are, know that we live in communion with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?
How can we know that already we live in that place promised by Jesus? Philip demanded a more palpable reassurance: “Lord, let us see the Father and then we shall be satisfied.” In his response Jesus opened the eyes of his disciples to an entirely new communion with Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus spoke of his own communion with the Father as an indwelling, something reaching beyond what is seen and experienced by the senses.
“Have I been with you all this time and you still do not know me? To have seen me is to have seen the Father. Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me?”
Jesus described his whole ministry as the outpouring of the Father who dwelt in his heart.
“The words I say to you I do not speak as from myself: it is the Father, living in me, who is doing this work. You must believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.”
The power of Christ’s Resurrection, through the Holy Spirit, brings us into this communion with the Father and the Son. It was in the strength and power of this communion that Jesus could make such an extraordinary promise.
“I tell you solemnly, whoever believes in me will perform the same works as I do myself, he will perform even greater works, because I am going to the Father.”
To have known Jesus in prayer, in Word and Sacrament, is to live already in the presence of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.