7 April, Tuesday – I will follow you

Tuesday of Holy Week

Isa 49:1-6
Jn 13:21-33, 36-38

Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later

Many years ago, I rushed back from China to be at my mother’s side. Mom suffered a relapse of cancer and this time round, the doctors told our family she was on her last legs. I arrived at the airport and made it straight to the hospital. That night, I stayed over with her. I managed to see her one last time before she slipped into a drugged stupor; presumably high from the morphine and other drugs. She slipped in and out of what was reality and what was illusion. At one point, she was fidgeting so much and tugging at the tubes attached to her. I feared that she would hurt herself. Tired from the flight and also from the emotional stress, I remember saying to her in agitation “Mom, please can you go to sleep!” For a brief moment, she snapped out of her drugged state. Herself again, she said to me “Okay.” She stopped tugging at those tubes that night.

What led me to this story in today’s gospel reflection is the line “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, though you will follow later.” This line jumped out at me as I read today’s readings. It led me to another incident that I had almost forgotten. Some point in time, during that same night in the hospital, mom started to look for something under her pillow. She seemed to be really intent on finding this ‘thing’.

Me: “Mom, what is it you’re looking for?”

Mom: “The key.”

Me: “Key to what?”

Mom: ‘The place.”

Me: “Where is it?”

Mom: “Where I am going, you cannot follow me.”

At that point, I was convinced the medication was making her so high she was hallucinating, but one side of me knew that she knew her time was near. She knew she was ‘going someplace’, but she also knew that it wasn’t her daughter’s time yet. Reflecting back on this today, I think that event was really profound!

In today’s gospel, Jesus tells his disciples that he is going away, and that for the moment, they cannot come with him. There are two reasons why the disciples could not follow Jesus this night. One was bad news, and the other is very good news.

The bad news was this — they couldn’t follow because they were morally unable to deny themselves and take up their cross and follow him. Peter didn’t make it through the night. He denied Jesus. And it wasn’t just Peter who failed. They all failed. “Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone” (Mark 14:50). They were not ready to make the sacrifices necessary to follow a crucified Messiah. They needed a greater power from the Holy Spirit.

The other reason why they couldn’t follow Jesus that night was, good news! Jesus was about to do what only He could do, that is to die not mainly as an example to inspire them, but as a substitute to save them.

“I go to prepare a place for you . . . And you know the way to where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, 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.”

We don’t go to heaven — to the Father. We go to the Father through Jesus. Where am I going this night that you cannot follow? I am going to die for you, and thus become the way to God. You can’t follow now. Only I can do this. This is my work alone. But you will follow afterward, because I will make a way. I will pay for your sins — all your failures. Then you will come — through me. Trusting me. No one comes to the Father except through me. That’s what I am doing tonight. I am making a way for sinners to come to the Father. And only I can do it. You can’t follow me now.

And, brothers and sisters, that is very good news indeed!

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Lord, we take refuge in you. You are our hope and our fortress. Give us the grace to take up our cross daily and follow You.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Jesus. We will follow You to the Father, because You made a way. You paid for our sins.

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