Marshall McLuhan, commentator on means of communication, once wrote: ‘We drive into the future looking through the rear-vision mirror.’ The Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, once said: ‘We live forward, but we understand backwards.’ So on Sundays and at other times, we go backwards to the life of Jesus, so that for now and for the future, we might become better people, his kind of people.
Today we find ourselves tuning in to the start of the conversation between Jesus and his disciples at the Last Supper. But before we do that, I’d like to start with something sad and disturbing that is happening in Australia, in order to highlight that particular need which Jesus talks about, the need to belong and feel at home.
On the edge of Melbourne’s suburbs, the bodies of more than one hundred ‘street kids’ lie under mounds of red earth in the Bulla cemetery. Nothing marks their graves, not even a simple cross. The only signs there in a stretch of dry, cracked earth, warn of snakes and rabbit burrows. Only one young person is identified by a gravestone and a name. The Herald-Sun has described this place as ‘Melbourne’s saddest cemetery’. For whatever reason, those buried there, homeless in death were also homeless in life. They were found dead in dark alleys and ‘squats’, unnamed and unclaimed by any relative or friend. For them ‘home’ was about relationships deprived, denied, or abused. We can at least trust, as Jesus has asked us to do, that they have finally found a home with the risen Lord in his Father’s house, where there are more than enough rooms to go round.
All of us need to belong and feel at home. All of us long for a haven of peace and rest, a kind of oasis where we can recover from the storms of life. Jesus was aware of this felt human longing, and found it himself in the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, his friends at Bethany. He tells his followers, you and me included, that he is going to prepare a home for us at the end of our journeys of life.
He says too that no map is needed to get there. For he himself is the way, the way to our destination, which is nothing less than the company of God forever.
Not only is he the way to living with God, he is also the truth about God. For he himself is God embodied in a human being, the human expression of God, the flesh and blood mirror of God, the human face of God, God’s body-language. In short he is telling us that God is like Jesus.
Jesus also lives within himself the life of God. By his being present to us, and our being present to him, we live in God and God lives in us. Though he is no longer with us on earth as a physical person, whom we can look at, listen to, and speak to face- to-face, he is always with us just the same, always with us as our way, truth, and life. ‘Believe in me,’ he says. ‘Trust me,’ he says.
Not to do so is risky. For out there in our complex and difficult world, it’s just too easy to become puzzled and confused about the ultimate meaning of life and about our final destiny, and just too easy to get quite lost in all our searching and exploring of this, that, and the other.
So today, in our Eucharist, let us acknowledge Jesus Christ as our way, our truth, and our life, and re-commit ourselves to being with him in life and in death. And today too, let us ask Jesus to help us recognise his face in the faces of fellow human beings, the lost and the broken, and to do all we can to wipe away their tears and comfort them in their distress, brokenness and bewilderment. Among those who come to mind immediately are the many asylum seekers languishing in cruel, inhuman and inhumane detention camps on Manus Island and Nauru!
By continuing the work of Jesus on earth – seeing his face in the distraught or disfigured faces of fellow human beings, and relieving his sufferings in those whose lives are wracked with physical, mental or emotional pain – we will keep up with Jesus, as we journey with him along that road that leads to goodness and God.
Surely an ongoing relationship with Jesus is the road leads to peace, a fulfilling, satisfying and lasting peace, a peace too that is not available in any other way.