A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me, because I go to the Father.
We’re going to spend a few more moments on this. After all, the phrase is repeated three times in the Gospel. Clearly St. John wanted to highlight these words. So, there’s some review here, but hopefully our picture is clarifying and will do so even more in the next few days.
Christ “going to the Father” is the foundation for our “seeing” Him and “clinging” to Him. As He said to Mary, “Don’t cling to me, for I have not yet gone to my Father and your Father.” And as He said in this week’s Gospel, “You will see me, because I go to the Father.”
What happens by Jesus going to the Father that lays the foundation for our clinging to Him and seeing Him? What happens involves the whole Trinity.
The Father is the “greater one,” not in terms of being “better than” the Holy Spirit or Jesus, but in terms of being primary. Meaning, like the sun’s relation to the rays, He is the source. In our case, He’s the source of life. He’s the foundation of it all. Where the Son comes from the Father, the Father comes from no one. Yes, the Son is eternally begotten of the Father, and the Holy Spirit eternally proceeds, but the Father is foundational.
To understand not seeing and clinging to Christ until He goes back to the Father, we almost have to look at Jesus in His “Second Adam” status, as “Man Restored.” (There’s also this phrase, “Cosmic Christ” that comes naturally in my particular context, but sounds too New Agey.) On these terms, Jesus is “Me Restored. To cling to Him or see Him is a stand in for faith. And to see/cling to Jesus by faith outside of His having been restored to the Father is an insufficient Savior. It keeps us separate from the “greater one,” our source. This is why Jesus said to Mary, “Don’t touch me.” In other words, “I’m not any good to you quite yet.”
This is why the ministry of the apostles is greater than that of Jesus, and where the Holy Spirit comes in. Jesus sitting at God’s right hand restores everything. In that moment is the foundation for “Me Restored.” That’s where Jesus becomes the true Second Adam, fulfilling the prophecy that He would be an “Everlasting Father” of a new line which will live forever. Jesus wandering around Galilee raising the dead and healing lepers is a temporary foretaste of the feast to come, when His apostles do greater things than He did, which is communicate to sinners their restoration.
How? In Jesus’ name and by the Holy Spirit. Again, as Jesus said, it’s to our advantage that He returns to the Father, because once He sits down there, restoring our fellowship and position, He can send out the Holy Spirit who will take what is His and declare it to us.
As the apostles “do what Jesus commands” (teach what He taught) in His name, and forgive sins, they act out this ministry. They literally “speak into existence” the “Me Restored.” For instance, as they teach me the Our Father, they speak into existence my status as one who calls upon God as “Father.”
The liturgy is nothing less than the manifestation of this ministry. It’s entire premise is our restoration into the presence of God.
The invocation lays the foundation for Jesus’ promise, that whatever we ask in His name He will do. As Jesus says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.”
I haven’t got that Cadillac I’ve been begging for in Jesus’ name yet, but if you look at this passage in the same context as Matthew 18, it makes sense: “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”
Jesus is talking about the Church, its foundation in the Lord’s name, it’s authority to establish on earth in Christ’s name what is a reality in heaven.
Then there’s the introit, where the congregation enters into the Lord’s presence singing Psalms of thanksgiving and praise, and where gentiles glorify the name of the Lord – in the great gathering of nations – in fulfillment of the prophecy.
There are the readings, creed, and Gospel, which in the Gospel of John, are each related to what gives us eternal life. It’s the Holy Spirit, by declaration, speaking into existence the existential reality accomplished by Jesus’ “going to the Father.”
There is communion, in which we are, well, in communion with that existential reality, in communion with the Father through the Son by the Holy Spirit. The “Holy, Holy, Holy” of the Sanctus is like the soundtrack to this reality, for we are truly with the angels and saints, yes, we who sing the “hosanna” songs of earthly children, for heaven and earth are brought together.
All of this is communicated by declaration of the Holy Spirit. This doesn’t just create a fantasy, or generate phantasms in our minds in the way of Gnosticism and idolatry. It declares the Word of our restoration in a way no different than the Word which brought the first creation into existence. These things are hidden from us now, and blessed are those who believe without seeing.
But that doesn’t mean they are any less palpably real. Yes, palpably real, in such a way that they are things we can cling to, and see. For Jesus to use these highly sensory words, “see” and “cling,” only underscores His intent that we know how real our restoration is. It’s the same reason why we’re in the “-ate” phase of the church year. It’s like a father telling a daughter who has just gone through an incredibly traumatic experience, who can’t open her eyes, but who is now held by her father, “It’s OK. You’re safe now. Rejoice! See me here. Hold on to me. I’m here to protect you. I’ll never let any harm befall you.”
It’s palpably real.