Before the Age of Starbucks and Costa Coffee I used to travel all over the country trying to spread the Good News that I hadn’t really understood myself. Then, thanks to my aversion to the motorway coffee that looked like sepia soup that tasted like dishwater with a hint of soap suds, I bought two twelve vault kettles at a car boot sale to brew my own in the car. The good news is that it worked, the bad news is that it took two hour to boil and made me lose my temper. As soon as I got home I plugged the kettle into the mains and watched the flash as it went up in smoke. It was as the smell of burning rubber was invading my nostrils that I saw the light, this time it was a spiritual flash of light that enabled me to see what I’d never seen before. Just as I discovered the hard way that 240 volts into 12 volts will not go I simultaneously saw that infinite love into finite love will not go either. That was why, before Jesus came, nobody could get close to God, nobody ever saw him, let alone receive his love within them. Nevertheless people wanted to experience his love and wanted to spend the rest of their existence being possessed by that love and to all eternity. The desire was there but the means wasn’t. That’s why to this day, the prayers that they used, the psalms that they sung, and the poems that they loved can still be said today because thanks to Jesus their wildest dreams have at last become possible.
The ancient prophets knew that this time would come, and that it would be brought about through an unprecedented outpouring of God’s infinite love, that would be for all, not just for the Jews. When Jesus came he promised the same, but only after his death, – immediately after his death, – as St John showed in his Gospel. Jesus had said that just as the rock struck by Moses to satisfy the thirst of his people in the desert, he would become another rock, a living spiritual rock, filled with the love of God that would pour out that love on the whole world and all who inhabited it, of every race and every colour, in every social position and none. The moment when the centurion struck the side of Jesus to be sure that he was dead, was the moment when the living water of the Holy Spirit poured forth from the rock that was Christ. This was not just the most important moment in the passion narrative for St John, but the most important moment in his Gospel. That’s why he makes such a fuss of insisting that he was there to see it, and that what he saw was true and that the truth of what he saw is guaranteed because he John, the beloved disciple, saw it with his own eyes. However despite the conviction of his own eyes a certain time had to pass before what he saw could be received by himself, his other disciples and then the wider world for whom Jesus had come. First his triumph over death had to be seen to be believed so there could be no misunderstanding about what he had long since promised to do. Then he had to be seen returning from where he had come at the Ascension. Although Jesus returned to his Father to the home whence he had come he took with him a part of himself that had never been there before. It was his human nature formed in Mary’s womb which had ‘grown in wisdom and truth’ under the influence of the Holy Spirit, as he had matured with the years and with the love of his Father.
Now it was this human nature that was the key to God’s plan for the whole of humanity. It would enable God to do what even he had been unable to do before. Now at last, and as so often promised, this the human nature of Jesus could not only be filled as never before by his love, but could be the mystical transformer that would enable him to transmit his infinite love to the finite human nature of those for whom he had originally created the world. When my first kettle had been destroyed by a far greater power, than it could not sustain, I bought myself the transformer that enabled me to understand the mystical transformer that God had chosen to use when he transmitted his infinite love to all human kind on the first Pentecost Day. Jesus was, and is, that transformer. And he is present to us at every moment of our lives and so is his love that only blindness and beastly behaviours keeps at bay.
Many years ago I was privileged to meet the holiest man that I have ever met. A Cistercian monk, who resided at a remote monastery in Africa. He told me that he had been plunged into a dark spiritual night for many years where he could only travel onward by the light of faith alone. Later he was to realise that during this time he was being purified by the love that had in the end sufficiently purified him to enable the love of God to penetrate every part of him so that he was conscious of his abiding presence at every moment. Strangely enough this breakthrough coincided with a physical ailment that confined him to the monastic infirmary for two week. Now he told me that on three distinct occasion, at the very moment when the Prior was giving him communion he heard these words – ‘Only you have been keeping me out’. The words were spoken in a loud and clear voice and yet with such compassion that he had no doubt to whom he was listening, nor why he had had to travel for so long by naked faith, for he was all the time being purified of the shortcomings that had shamed him.
I was about to continue by saying that no human eyes had ever seen the mystical transformer filled by the glory of God that Jesus became after the Ascension, but I would have been wrong. Jesus wanted his nearest and dearest apostles to see what they would communicate to others. He wanted them to see him in his glory, the glory given to him after his ascension into heaven. That is why he took Peter, James and John with him to the top of Mount Tabor. It was here that they saw him filled by, and radiating with that glory. The experience was so wondrous, so divine, and so enthralling that they begged Jesus to allow them to make their home there permanently. But this could not be, much had to be done by them and by Jesus before that desire could be realised. Remember the words of Mary to the little girls, who at the end of the apparitions, wanted to go back to their heavenly home with her. ‘Your hands are as yet empty’ she had insisted and so were the hands of the apostles. They had much work to do before their endeavour would enable them to go to the Father and to the final home that Jesus had promised them. This, their final destiny, would have to be ‘earned’ by many years on earth of human endeavour suffused by the divine and then transmitted in with and through Jesus to the Father. It is here always, in with and through him that we will experience the ecstatic and blissful joy that binds the Father to the Son to eternity.
This is the home that we have all yearned for, where we would glory in the family for which we have always longed, without the selfishness and without the sinfulness that marred the perfect family that we tried, but never fully succeeded in making on earth. Whenever we are still for long enough it is for this for which we yearn, that’s why St Augustine wrote that often quoted epigram ‘our hearts are restless ‘til they rest in God’. If we have never, or rarely experienced this pull that draws us towards our ultimate destiny, then its time that we made time for what time was made for in the first place. Remember that it is only now in the present moment that we can seek out the solitude to discover the place where time touches eternity. It is here alone that we can begin to experience that mysterious and mystical pull that comes from God that will, if followed, lead us onward to what John Donne called ‘God’s glory’ and our endless ‘Sabbath rest’.