In My Father’s House…there are Many Dwelling Places…

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“In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2)? Does this statement not fill our hearts with hope and, yes, a bit of awe? In this passage from John’s gospel Jesus tells us both who he is and what he is going to do for us.

Who is he? We get the answer to this after Jesus has explained to the disciples “Where I am going you know the way” (verse 4). Thomas, the ever inquisitive Apostle, asks Jesus, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way” (verse 5)? And Jesus replies to Thomas’ question in this way: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (verse 6). This is who he is. Though the Apostles and the disciples were still learning this truth, we have the advantage of knowing the end of the story that the disciples had not yet experienced. Jesus was teaching them, but they had not yet fully understood who he was and what he was going to do. Jesus’ death and resurrection and the descent of the Holy Spirit upon them at Pentecost was still in the future for them.

But what Jesus is telling them here was as powerful for them as it is for us. “My Father’s house has many dwelling places.” When I hear this statement, it fills me with an indescribable feeling of hope and wonder. And Jesus’ argument is palpable. Why would he tell them, and us, such a thing if it were not so. He tells the disciples that since he is going to prepare these dwelling places for them, he is going to come back again “and take you to myself, so that where I am, you also may be” (verse 3). And here we encounter a very powerful truth: Jesus is telling us that he is going to do this for us as well, if we have developed a personal relationship of love with him. It is that relationship that he had with the disciples, and that he wants to have with us, that is the reason for why he went away to prepare a dwelling place for them, and for us.

What Jesus has promised, we must also freely desire. But there are so many other passions and desires that we give our assent to in our lives that we must let go of before we can have the level of relationship with Jesus that will cause him to prepare a place for us in the Father’s house. St. Augustine, one of the greatest thinkers in the Church’s long history, a man who struggled mightily to rid himself of so many powerful worldly passions, said something very powerful. “When God becomes all, in all, there will be nothing left to desire.” That was his struggle, and it is our struggle, to develop a love for God alone. This love for God must not only surpass all of our earthly desires, but it will reveal those lesser desires for what they really are, only mere shadows in comparison to the reality of God’s love for us. God is love. When we live, finally, in God, there will be nothing left to desire. All of our desire will be focused on God and all that is really good and true and beautiful will come to us through that personal relationship with him. The dwelling places that he has prepared in his Father’s house are for those who love God above all else. And Jesus will come back again, to take those who love God in this way to himself so that they will always be where God is. Glory be to God!

Lord, It is the greatest desire of our hearts to one day dwell with you forever in your Father’s house, but we are tortured by our worldly desires. We pray that you inspire in us a deepening desire to open our hearts to you more each day, and that you teach our hearts the wisdom of letting go of those things that keep us from developing a full relationship with you. We pray in your name, Jesus. Amen!

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.