Funeral Lectionary: John 14:1-6

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled.
You have faith in God; have faith also in me.
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?
And if I go and prepare a place for you,
  I will come back again and take you to myself,
  so that where I am you also may be.
Where I am going you know the way.”
Thomas said to him,
  “Master, we do not know where you are going;
  how can we know the way?”
Jesus said to him,
  “I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.”

By far this is the most frequently used Gospel reading at funerals with which I’ve been involved. Why is that so?

I suspect there is a lyric appeal in the text. Some Scripture scholars (such as C. F. Burney) note a possible undertone of Aramaic poetry here. Whether that substrate is there or not, this rich passage is very attractive to ministers and mourners alike. If the poetic language comes off as a bit obscure, Thomas is there to insert a question. Many people identify with this interjection in their time of grief: “But we don’t know!”

So Jesus summarizes and reassures.

What message might mourners take from this passage near the beginning of Jesus’s farewell discourse at the Last Supper? That his “Father’s house” is a metaphor for heaven, and we can be assured that a place is prepared for us (see the Psalmist’s allusion in Psalm 23:6b).

Jesus will treat questions and concerns gently, but insistently. Often in John’s gospel, we see that Jesus is asked for a clarification. A disciple or bystander pipes up with some query, which Jesus uses to elaborate on the matter at hand. Perhaps the consolation of “many rooms” and the implication that those who will be received into the Father’s house will be many and diverse. But also Jesus reminds the disciples just who is the way, the truth, and the life. Comfort for those already numbered among the believers? Definitely. Hope for anyone else? I would think so.

My sense is that a mourner might welcome that dialogue with God. My sense is also that preachers find in this passage the message of hope and comfort that is much needed in the ministry at the time of death. A reminder that this passage describes the last time Jesus will be with his disciples before the Passion may also be helpful. The Lord was active and teaching right up to the end.

Any personal experiences with this passage at a funeral?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Order of Christian Funerals, Scripture. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Funeral Lectionary: John 14:1-6

  1. Pingback: Resources for John 14:1 - 6

  2. What exactly really motivated u to write “Funeral Lectionary: John 14:1-6 Catholic Sensibility”?
    Itruly enjoyed reading the blog post! I appreciate it ,Hye

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