What is this “little while”?
In the first place it is a term of time. A little while refers to the human nature of our Lord and this human nature is with this troubled time bound world for “a little while”. At a certain point the eternal which is the greater reality breaks through the vale of temporality and enters into the kingdom which is forever. St. Teresa and her little brother used to reflect over and over again over the fact that heaven or hell is forever. In eternity there is no “little while”, no everything now is forever. Our Lord is setting us up to realize that there is nothing so important as returning to the Father.
Now, my brothers and sisters, our Lord gives us the equation that lifts one to the greater existence. As the Father has sent Him, so He will send us. What was His temporal mission that causes the apostles to question what does he mean by this “little while”? The mission detailed throughout time was clearly stated by the prophets and by all the happenings of the Old Testament: the Messiah must suffer and die. The Christ must shed His blood for the price of our souls “for without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sin.” (Heb 9:22) We are commissioned to go forth and proclaim this message by our words and our works. If we are called to lay down our life as the Good Shepherd did, so be it.
Why the confusion? Confusion is with us because we mistake our temporality for eternity and our eternity as a figment of our imagination. Confused because we accept this world as the place where we might hang up our hats. Consider the transfiguration action of St. Peter: It is good for us to be here. Let’s stay and make three tabernacles. No, Peter, this eternal moment is meant to carry you through the temporal test of this world. A little while and I will not longer be with you. Has He not repeated what all of scripture testifies to and that is His Death and Resurrection. A little while and death will remove this eternal Son of God from the earthly vision of all.
Imagine now that the Mystical Body with Christ as its Head says to you “a little while and I shall no longer be with you.” Won’t you say “What is this little while?” It is the fact that the Church shall be crucified as its Master and Head. Don’t be alarmed and do not fear. This Mystical Body goes to the Father sent by the Son. We follow in the footprints of the Master and we are in time but through Him we become eternal. Once we shed this temporal body we will receive that eternal spiritual body that can only know Love.
Separation is necessary that the eternal may be given for the test of Love that our world offers us. Once we proclaim that we love Him over and above this world of time and space then the height, breadth and width of the eternal breaks upon us and consoles us. As Don Bosco used to tell his priests and clerics when times were tough: “A little piece of heaven will make all this seems so small.” Let us offer the sufferings of the church, of you and I to the Lord Who took His own medicine and ransomed us “for God our Father.” Yes, we have been sent on mission because we were incorporated into the Mystical Body and now we must live our Passion and Death with understanding and courage.
Do not fear little flock it will only last “a little while.” A little while is repeated by our Lord seven times in order to bring us to the eternal meaning of our lives. Let us turn to our Blessed Mother, the Help of Christians, seeking from her guidance to pathway that leads us to the Beatific Vision. What a shame not to use our time here for the quest that sums up every reason for our very temporal lives in this world. We want to be in the family that will love each other eternally.
In the hearts of Jesus, Mary and Joseph,
Fr. Richard Voigt, S.D.B.
Pray for the Consecration of our new bishop to be blessed by God and watched over by our Lady and all the angels and saints.