Homily by Father Paul Wharton
This seems to be a partially true story. When the Revised Standard Version of the Bible was first published in 1952, a pastor in North Carolina was so angry by the new translation that he burned one and sent the ashes to the publisher. This appears to have happened. Supposedly, what upset the preacher so much was that while the King James Version of John 14:2 says, “In my Father’s house there are many mansions,” the RSV translates it, “In my Father’s house are many rooms.” The North Carolina pastor was furious at “them cheapskates” who translated the RSV. He said that he had been promised a mansion in the sky in the King James Version and nobody, but nobody, was going to cheat him out of it!
Sometimes we can get so caught up in details that we miss the bigger picture, often the whole point. The Greek word used by John the Evangelist has been translated as mansions, rooms, dwelling places, lodgings, and abodes. It seems likely Jesus was saying there’s room enough for everyone. Isn’t this good news to hear and know. Today’s gospel has nothing to do with architecture. There are three promises Jesus makes. Believe them because God is always true to God’s Word.
First, Jesus PROMISES a PLACE for those who love him. Reinhold Niebuhr, who wrote the Serenity prayer also said this, “It is unwise for Christians to claim any knowledge of either the furniture of heaven or the temperature of hell; or to be too certain about any [of the] details.” Both the Scriptures and the Church tell us that for the faithful departed death means that “life is changed, not ended.” Saint Paul wrote, “Eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has so much is dawned on us what God has prepared for those who love him.”
Next, Jesus PROVIDES a PATH. Through his death and resurrection, there’s a way from life in this world to life in the next. Not only that, but Jesus shows us how to live our lives. “Anyone who would save his [or her] life must lose it.” We must die to ourselves, selfishness, and sin so as to live for God and others.
Third, Jesus PLEDGES a POWER to be with us — The Holy Spirit — to be our Advocate, Comforter, and Guide. Those first Apostles, earliest disciples, and we were and are given a tremendous task: spread the gospel and BE the Body of Christ (his hands, feet, and mouth, etc) in and for the world. Jesus not only calls us to this, but enables and empowers us to do so.
So, the Risen Lord prepares a place, provides a path, and pledges a power.
Today’s gospel was proclaimed and preached at the recent Funeral Liturgy for Katie Saddler. She had some words we need to hear in the midst of this pandemic. Throughout her life, and especially during her three-year battle with cancer, Katie repeatedly said, “In the end, it’ll be okay.”