What is the meaning of this Biblical passages? Many non-Catholic denominations have referred to this passage in their argument that everyone who has faith in Jesus, they are saved no matter what religions they belong to.
Many Catholics (including priests and Bishops), in the spirit of ecumenism, have quoted this Biblical verse to imply that salvation stretches out to all religions, no matter what its followers believe in.
What was the teaching of the Catholic Church regarding this passage prior to Vatican II? Has that teachings changed? Does the truth change? Was the Catholic Church teachings errors prior to Vatican II; or is it teaching errors now?
Let us review the pre-Vatican meaning of “In my Father’s House, there are many rooms.” [Jn. 14:2]
1. First of all, let us quote the entire passage, not just a part of it. “In my Father’s house there are many mansions. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” [Jn. 14:2] (Rheims, A.D. 1582.) Note that the word “rooms” is not in the quoted passage. Instead, you have the word “mansions.” This is because modern Bible versions have replaced the word “mansions” with the word “rooms.” This changes the meaning of the Bible passage.
When a reference is made to “many rooms” in the Father’s House, it can imply “many religions.” But when we properly refer to “many mansions,” each of these mansions having many rooms of their own, it becomes obvious that the word “mansion” has nothing to do with different religions/denominations.
2. Pre-Vatican teachings were that this Bible verse was intended “to mean the heavenly kingdom to which Jesus is returning (though there are no grounds for understanding “many” to mean also “many kinds” or “degrees”). [The Jerome Biblical Commentary; Publisher: Prentice-Hall; 1968]
The aforementioned tells us that “many mansions” was not a reference to “many kinds” or “degrees,” meaning “spiritual worlds” or “dimensions” that might have included the living saints on earth, the souls in Purgatory, the souls in Limbo and finally the souls in Heaven. While these different dwellings places could be implied as “many mansions,” the traditional teaching of the Church was that such was not the meaning of Jesus’ Words.
3. Traditionally, the Catholic Church also taught that “the Father’s house is where God is, and whoever is with God is in His house. This was interpreted to mean that the “many mansions” of the Father’s house were a reference to the many Catholic Churches/Parishes on earth, where Christ is found.
The “many mansions" were understood to mean that Christ physically dwelled in the Sacred Tabernacles of the Catholic Churches throughout the world. Each of these Churches/Parishes have “many rooms,” those "rooms" meaning the “soul members” in which dwells the Holy Spirit. Remember that members of the Body of Christ are Temples of the Holy Spirit.
4. Another ancient interpretation has to do with “If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” [Jn. 14:2] The disciples felt that Jesus was going away and abandoning them. They wanted to be part of God’s Kingdom. Jesus had to reassure them that that there was ample room in His Father’s house where He would be.
Therefore, they needed to have no fear that He would fail to find a place for them in His company. “I am going to prepare a place for you.” His final reassurance was that His departure was only that they may be together forever.
To summarize the traditional teachings of the Catholic Church, it can be said that:
a. “In my Father’s House, there are many rooms” [Jn. 14:2] is not a reference to the salvation of our separated brothers and sisters.
b. “In my Father’s House, there are many mansions” [Jn. 14:2] is a reference to God’s dwelling on earth, the “many mansions” being the “Sacred Tabernacles” in which the Real Presence of Christ dwells in the Holy Eucharist.
And when a reference is made to the “rooms” within the “many mansions,” it is a reference to the local members (parishioners) of the Body of Christ who belong to each individual Church.