|In that day you shall know, that I am in my Father, |
and you in me, and I in you. (John 14:20)
5th Sunday of Easter
May 22nd, 2011
Jesus said to him, I am the way and the truth and the life.
Our Savior gives us a word of encouragement in today’s Gospel text. He says, do not fear, let nothing disturb you. Do not let your hearts be troubled. I have come as your way to salvation. In my own person, I have reconciled you with God and I will come again to bring you into the fullness of all joy in heaven.
Christ tells us, I am the way. Indeed, the Lord is our Way, he is our true and only access to the Father and to the life of the blessed which awaits us.
But, when Jesus says I am the way, he means this in two respects: Exclusively and inclusively. Exclusively, the Lord states, No one comes to the Father except through me – he is the only way to salvation and there is no other. Inclusively, he tells us, Whoever has seen me has seen the Father – all who trust in Christ, all who look to Jesus will be saved.
First, exclusively: The good Lord affirms not simply that he is “a way”, that is, one way among many. Rather, he says I am the way – he is THE way, the only way; apart from him there is no other means of coming to the Father or of gaining eternal life. Apart from Christ, there can be no salvation.
Our Savior offers a vision of salvation which is quite a bit different from that most prevalent in the modern western world. The two views – that of the Gospel and that of the world – can be compared by means of a certain metaphor.
First, the world’s vision of salvation: The world thinks that all ways lead to heaven and that, whatever choices people make and whatever they believe, all people will be saved. This vision may be symbolized by a metaphor of rivers and streams. The rains fall and the waters are gathered from many places into various streams and rivers. Then, these rivers flow together and ultimately all the water goes into the ocean – all the waters end up in the same place and they take many different paths to get there.
Christ, on the other hand, presents a very different vision of salvation. The Gospel vision can be compared to a tree: There is the solid trunk of the tree, it is in the center. And, from this trunk, many branches go forth, to one side or the other. As the branches break away from the trunk, they continue to separate, going farther and farther away from the center. There is no final unity, but rather the turns to one side or the other ultimately lead to different ends and to different places.
So it is with the Gospel – Jesus tells us that there is only one way which leads to salvation, and it is himself. He alone is our means of attaining to heaven; and every other path can lead only to hell. Our choices really do matter and what we believe really does make a difference – because there is only one path to heaven, and we must follow the Lord if we desire to come to eternal life with God.
When we consider this truth – that it is only through Christ and his Church that any may hope to come to salvation – we must not become over-confident. It is true, we have been blessed to be gathered into the household of the faith. We are blessed to believe in the Gospel. But, on the other hand, as we each examine our consciences, we quickly recognize that there are many ways (both big and small) in which we do not follow Christ, but instead seek happiness in other things.
A good question for our personal examination might be this: When was the last time I read a spiritual book that was written by a saint? There are so many silly books out there which promote all sorts of sentimental spiritualities – but when was the last time I read any book at all which was written by a saint? Have I ever read a book that was written by a saint? If not, it’s time to pick one up and to get started! We have the gift of the Catholic spiritual tradition, why would we look to anything else? Why waste our time with self-help books, when we have the true faith?
Again, consider all the pseudo-spirituality which is promoted through the new age movement and also through the modern fascination with eastern spiritualities and philosophies. Why look to thinks like eastern mediations? Why turn to Zen, Centering Prayer or Yoga? These can all only lead to one place – and it’s not heaven! And do not be fooled, these are all false spiritualities; however innocent they may seem. They are a false worship. But we have the Gospel.
Christ tells us; no, he cries out to us: “Why do you look to these false paths and false spiritualities? Why are you dabbling in these eastern prayers and meditations? Look, rather to me, for Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” And here we come to the inclusive aspect of our Savior’s words.
Jesus is the Way to the Father and whosoever comes to him will gain access to eternal life. He is come as our Savior and his one desire is that he should draw all people to himself and grant them the true joy of heaven. Because Christ is the sure and infallible way to the Father, he can say Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.
Yet, we might ask: How can Christ say this, when we know that many who saw him did not see the Father? Consider the Pharisees; when they looked upon our Savior, they saw only a mere man and even an enemy. They did not see the Father. So many who lived with Jesus did not recognize him as their Savior and were not lead into communion with God. How then does Christ tell us Whoever has seen me has seen the Father?
Jesus speaks to us of something more than a merely physical or exterior looking. We see Christ not simply with our eyes, but with our minds and with our hearts. Thus, what our Savior means for us to understand is this: Whoever has seen me that is, whoever has meditated upon the mysteries of my earthly life and has gazed upon my humanity through contemplative prayer, such a one has seen the Father.
This is the promise of Christ – if we pray regularly, and especially if we take time daily for meditation on the mysteries of our Lord’s life; we will certainly be saved, we will certainly see the Father.
I am reminded of the wonderful prayer which is often said at the end of the Rosary. “Grant that by meditating upon these mysteries,” that is, upon the mysteries of the life, death and resurrection of Christ, “we may imitate what they contain,” for the Lord is our way and leads us by his own example, “and obtain what they promise,” which is to come to the fulfillment of all hope when we come to perfect enjoyment of the Lord as our Truth and our Life, in the glories of life everlasting.