The Way, The Truth and the Life

May 11, 2017 - 7:30am
I Am The Truth
Reflection for the Fifth Sunday of Easter

Most of us have been either literally or figuratively lost at some time, not knowing which way to go, and feeling a surge of fear and panic.

The Apostles in today’s Gospel were feeling lost, because Jesus had just told them he was going to leave them in order to be crucified and die. Thomas said what must have been in all their hearts: “We do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus’s answer might have been confusing. He didn’t give instructions or directions. Instead he told them that he himself was the direction. He said that he was the way, the truth, and the life.

We can understand the meaning of his words only when we realize that he was saying that he was going to the Father and that if we want to go to the Father, we must go through the Son, within the power of the Holy Spirit. That’s how our prayers work and that’s how blessings come to us—always through the Son. We know Jesus, and in knowing him, we come to the Father.

Unlike the Apostles, we haven’t had the experience of being physically in the company of Jesus, so how can we get to know him? The answer is simple: through the Holy Mass, by receiving Christ in the Sacraments of the Church, by studying his Word, participating in the sacraments of the church, and through our prayers and devotions. When we do those things, we come to know Jesus. And then we can truly confess that he is our way, our truth, and our life.

 

First Reading

To meet their growing needs, the community chooses seven reputable men to serve the new Greek believers (Acts 6:1-7).

 

This passage shows that the early Church had a discernible structure from the beginning. The threefold offices of bishop, priest, and deacon are seen in their infancy, and the witness of the Apostolic Fathers to the threefold hierarchy is also clear.

Several interesting features present themselves in this passage. First, the Church’s concern about the charity being extended to the widows of Greek-speaking Jews in the Jerusalem community is apparent in the choice of deacons. All of the names listed of the first seven deacons are Greek names; they may have been Hebrew-speaking Jews with Greek second names, but the implication is that the Apostles, and the community in general, are bending over backward to see that all charity is being distributed fairly. Second, we see an ordination ceremony of these deacons. The laying on of hands was part of the ordination ceremony among the Jews, and the Christian community seems to have easily taken up the practice, possibly in keeping with Jesus’s principle that the old wasn’t to be abolished but rather fulfilled. Although the community presents the candidates, it’s the apostles who pray and lay hands on them, which remains the form and matter of the ordination ceremony today.

 

Second Reading

We, like living stones, let ourselves be built into a spiritual house (1 Peter 2:4-9).

 

This passage is packed with allusions and references to Old Testament events that mean much more than what’s apparent on the surface. Moreover, the words about being built like living stones into a spiritual temple where we offer spiritual sacrifices as a holy priesthood are the vocabulary of Judaism. So we shouldn’t be surprised that the Jewish Peter speaks to Christians using the vocabulary of his Jewish roots.

Jewish and Christian scholars have suggested that because of Israel’s failure to receive all that God wished to give them and their continual rebellion that promise, repeated here by Peter, was never completely fulfilled. As the theory goes, the whole of the regime of Temple Judaism—its Temple, priests, and sacrifices— were only a preparation for a time when God would fulfill his promise in making Israel the “holy nation” God intended it to be. St. Peter is apparently saying that this has been accomplished in Christ. Although we still have ordained or ministerial priests in the Church, we all receive a share in Christ’s priesthood through Baptism, which makes us the “consecrated nation” that God willed so long ago on Sinai and which Christ formed by his sacrifice on the Cross.

 

Gospel Reading

 "Show us the Father," Philip asks Jesus. To which Jesus replies: "Whoever sees me, sees the Father" (John 14:1-12).

 

This passage points us toward the Ascension. Jesus tells the apostles that he’s going to prepare a place for them “in my Father’s house.” We discover that Jesus is leaving to go to the Father, but he assures his disciples that this absence is only so that he may prepare a place for them. He promises, “I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where I am going you know the way.” The last part of that phrase is a reflection of Jesus’s Incarnation and mission. He comes to us to dwell with us in time, in the flesh, and in so doing, wins us the ability to dwell with him in eternity.

What makes this astounding thing possible is Jesus’s unity with the Father in the Holy Trinity. So much of what Jesus promised requires his divinity. Unless he was God, he couldn’t save us from sin, he couldn’t gain us entry to Heaven, and he couldn’t give us his flesh to eat.

This is what Jesus reveals in the second part of this passage. “I am in the Father and the Father is in me,” Jesus says in language that seems to stretch to the breaking point in trying to convey these divine truths.

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