Homilette for Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Tuesday of the Seventh Week of Easter

(John 17:1-11)

A celebrated painting by the Renaissance master Ghirlandaio shows a boy embracing his grandfather. The old man has a bulbous, deformed nose that might elicit repulsion. But the lad gazes at him with affection. The grandfather also looks on his descendent with love. The title of this painting is simply “An Old Man and His Grandson.” But we might also call it, “A Picture of Eternal Life.”

In his encyclical on hope Pope Benedict mentions that we do not have an adequate idea of eternal life. As a matter of fact, the pope indicates, the term may confuse people who think of eternal as interminable and life as trouble. He suggests that we think of eternal life as “...the supreme moment of satisfaction in which totality embraces us and we embrace totality.” That’s more than a mouthful, but Ghirlandaio manages to capture this moment in his scene of the boy and the old man embracing.

In today’s gospel Jesus confirms this understanding of eternal life. He says that it is to know the one true God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent. By “knowing God,” he does not mean intellectual knowledge of God but intimate union with Him. Jesus adds that he has revealed the name of the Father to his disciples. He means that he has shown them the great “I Am.” This name expresses totality -- what Pope Benedict tells us to look for in eternal life. We anticipate then as our journey through this world ends a loving embrace with Him who encompasses all that is.