John 14: 1-12
In the gospel of St. John Jesus makes a series of powerful symbolic statements, each of which begins with the famous words “I am”, in which he likens himself to various images and things which illustrate some dimension of his person and mission; for example, “I am the bread of life”, “I am the light of the world”, and “I am the good shepherd”. In today’s gospel reading from the fourteenth chapter of St. John, he says: “I am the way, the truth, and the life”.
Coming in the penultimate moments of Jesus’ presence with his disciples his saying reminds the reader that Jesus himself is both the object and goal of our faith (the truth and the life) and the path which we must follow in order to arrive at that goal (the way).
First, he is the truth and the life itself in that he is the very image of the Father who is the source of all being and goodness: “If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him”. Jesus makes it clear in John’s gospel that he is equal to the Father and can never be separated from the Father from whom he came forth before all time.
In this particular passage he expresses this message through the actions of seeing, knowing, and believing. To see, know, and believe in Jesus is to see, know, and believe in the Father, and to have eternal life on account of that belief. Jesus is thus the unique source of life and salvation for all who desire to share in the glory and love of the God who was first revealed through the law and the prophets, and who has now been revealed perfectly in Jesus himself.
Second, Jesus is the way we must follow in order to arrive at our goal of unity with the Father. To this end, the first two readings of the mass come to our aid. In the reading from the Acts of the Apostles we hear how the early Christian community was torn by strife over the fact that the widows of gentile converts to Christianity were not being treated as well as the widows of Jewish converts to the faith.
In order to establish a just balance in the community, the apostles decided to appoint seven men as “deacons” or “servants” who would be ordained and recognized as having a share in the work of the apostles, but whose special task was to see that all needy persons were treated with charity and justice. The community prospered under this arrangement and peace was restored—the early Christians drew closer to Jesus their goal by imitating his way of life through a just and righteous decision.
In the second reading from the First Letter of Peter, we learn that to follow the way of Jesus is to let ourselves “be built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ”; that is, to become like Jesus by freely offering ourselves to God—giving ourselves over completely to Jesus, just as he gave himself over completely to the Father for the sake of our salvation. When we do this we imitate his self-giving love and are thus, “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own”, united to God in Jesus through our faith in him. (580)
We take to heart the gospel for this fifth Sunday of Easter if we trust in the One who is “the truth, and the life”, and if we seek to walk faithfully on “the way” of charity, justice, and compassion which he has shown us—as a people who are one with the Father through our oneness in Jesus.
Fr. Edward Mazich, O.S.B.