Fourth Sunday after Easter
Quo vadis – Where art Thou going, Lord?
Throughout Eastertide our eyes are turned in the direction of eternal life, life with God, in the very bosom of the Father. The Church turns our gaze to the goal, the promised land, the place – for Heaven is indeed a place – where our Beloved Jesus reigns now forever in glory with all the saints.
I go to prepare a place for you, He said to the apostles, a place St John will describe this way in the Apocalypse: These are they who are come out of great tribulation and have washed their robes and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore, they are before the throne of God: and they serve him day and night in his temple. And he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell over them. They shall no more hunger nor thirst: neither shall the sun fall on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb, which is in the midst of the throne, shall rule them and shall lead them to the fountains of the waters of life: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes (Apoc 7:14-17).
I go to prepare a place for you. In my Father’s house there are many mansions. Each one of us has been thought of; each one of us is awaited; each one of us is destined to take part in that eternal glory in which Jesus and Mary, with their glorified bodies, already reign.
This consoling thought is, to use an expression of St Paul, an “anchor of the soul”, an anchor that is not thrown down into the depths, but cast upward into Heaven. If we are anchored to the certitude of eternal life with God, then all the trials of this life become bearable. Ibi sit mens, et hic erit quies – let our heart be there, and here there will be peace.
Today’s oration sets the tone for this when it asks for the grace to desiderare quod promittis – to desire what what God has promised. And what has He promised? God has promised life eternal, He has promised everlasting communion of love with Himself, He has promised the vision of His very essence – we shall see Him as He is, videbimus eum sicuti est – St John tells us. Who could be so ungrateful, so thoughtless, so shamefully careless of God’s desire for us? He has not promised to give us some exceptional creature in reward: He has promised Himself. He longs to give Himself, He craves our love in return. He has prepared a mansion, an abode everlasting and unchanging in the eternal kingdom. How could we possibly not desire it, long for it, every day of our life, and do all in our power to obtain it?
“O most happy mansion of the city above!”, we read in the Imitation of Christ. “O most bright day of eternity, which knows no night, but is always enlightened by the sovereign truth! A day always joyful, always secure, and never changing its state for the contrary! … O good Jesus, when shall I stand to behold Thee? When shall I contemplate the glory of Thy kingdom? When wilt Thou be all in all to me? Oh, when shall I be with Thee in Thy kingdom, which Thou hast prepared for Thy beloved for all eternity?” (Book 3, ch. 48).
To make sure we arrive at that longed for goal, the Lord has given us His Spirit, and today’s Gospel is designed to prepare us already for the great feast of the outpouring of the Third Divine Person at Pentecost. When He comes, He will teach us all things, He will glorify the Son by leading all men to His Sacred Heart. He it is who ever points to the Son, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. The Spirit it is who convinces us that the path Jesus has opened for us is the one we must follow, that path of holiness in the practice of faith, hope, love and all the virtues.
This morning at Matins, St Cyprian gave us some exquisite thoughts on that most humble of virtues, patience, which seemed echoed in the epistle in which St James tells us to be slow to speak and slow to wrath. St Cyprian teaches, among other things:
“It is patience which both commends, and preserves us to God. It is this that restrains anger, bridles the tongue, governs the mind, guards peace, regulates discipline, breaks the impulse of lust, binds down the violence of pride, quenches the flame of hatred, controls the power of the rich, comforts the want of the poor, maintains a blessed integrity in virgins, in widows a studious chastity, in the wedded and married a singleness of love, makes men humble in prosperity, brave in adversity, mild toward injuries and contempts; teaches quickly to pardon them that offend: teaches the offender to make entreaty long time and often; conquers temptation, bears persecutions, leads passions and martyrdoms to their consummation. It is this that firmly fortifies the foundations of our faith.”
It is easy to see why, according to the same saint, there is nothing more excellent either for the aid of good living or for the increase of glory, than to practice patience.
And so, my dear Friends, as we pursue this time of paschal joy, as we look now towards the final glorification of Our Lord at the Ascension and long for a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit, let us ask, through the intercession of Our Blessed Lady, especially during this her month of May, for the grace to patiently endure this passing life and all the while to long more and more for the vision of God, that amidst all the changing circumstances, our hearts may always be there where true joys are to be found – ibi nostra fixa sint corda ubi vera sunt gaudia.
To achieve this, let us take up our Rosary with renewed fervour, for if we all did so and frequently, the power of Satan would be destroyed. For when we pray the Rosary, Our Lady takes our hand, she holds it, she caresses it as a loving Mother, and she extends it toward Heaven and places it in the Hand of God. If only we will let her, if only we do not run away, or think we can do it our way, if only we let her be Mother of each one of us, if we pray her Rosary, the power of Satan will be destroyed, and victory will be ours, and we will see that what we believed, what we longed for, was no fairy tale, but the reality: ibi nostra fixa sint corda ubi vera sunt gaudia – let our hearts be there, where the true joys are to found.