It’s sometime before his suffering, death, resurrection and ascension.
Thus when he says he’s going away he’s talking about a future event.
It’s most interesting though to observe the meaning he gives to his going away. His going away is not his death, but his death, resurrection and ascension, and in going away he’s not abandoning us.
Thus in the teaching of Jesus Christ death is not the final end event, but part of something much greater. We need to begin to think in this way. For the believer life opens upwardly to the splendour of God. For the unbeliever life (ultimately) must narrow downwardly to the grave!
He is going away (death, resurrection and ascension) “to prepare a place for you…” This is personal.
Have you ever noticed that you can’t really walk in another person’s shoes, that no matter how close you might be to another person, that person is always separate, uniquely other? There’s a sense in which in the end there’s only God and you in the universe!
Jesus promises that after he’s gone (death, resurrection and ascension) he’ll come back to take you with him. It’s so personal.
We tend to think of this returning as death but that misses so much of the picture – most of all it misses the joy at the heart of our religion.
The returning to take us with him is the gift of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost) through whom God enters into our lives, not in the future, but now. We’re taken up into the Divine life. We’re given a “place” in the Divine life. This is what Jesus means when he speaks of “rooms in my Father’s house” – it’s a share in God’s life. Try to imagine what happens when the Divine life begins to enter our lives; a transformation begins. Thus we find the Saints saying things like; “When we pray properly, sorrows disappear like snow before the sun.” St. John Vianney. The all powerful God mingles his life with ours – pure joy!
This is what makes the Catholic. Without Him religion falls flat. In fact, I’ll go much further and say; this is the joy of life, never mind Catholicism!
We don’t inherit the kingdom because we’re good people. We inherit the kingdom because God has given us a place (or room) in his Divine life and God by his very nature can’t be held captive by death.