Spirituality of the Readings

The Way

The Gospel for Sunday has a touching story about Jesus and the disciples. He is helping them get ready for his suffering and death.

They are stunned. Once he asked if they were going to leave him, as many others had. Peter said, “Where would we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

Now the situation is reversed.

So he says a simple thing. “Do not let your hearts be troubled by this. You have faith in God, have faith also in me.” The straightforward meaning of this directive is, you know how to trust; you do it with God. So use some of that kind of trust with me.

Good enough, and yet there is a much deeper meaning. He is saying in effect, “I, Jesus, am in complete union with the Father. I am a member of the Trinity. I am a revelation of everything that the Father is. When you trust the Father you are trusting me in the very same act.

It goes right over their heads, as too often it does ours.

So Jesus, the compassionate, tries an illustration.

In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I ever have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself.

A nifty image. A physical place, where we can all be together again. He will come back and get us. Who could misunderstand this?
The apostles could, and did. Fear and grief blocked it. Jesus tries a different approach. “Where I am going you know the way.”

Thomas explains the practical difficulty with such a statement (this is Doubting Thomas, whose heart couldn’t take the risk of trusting without facts):

“Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?”
In today’s language we would probably phrase it more rudely: “Well, duh! ‘The way’ depends on where you are going. Name the town and we will get there before you.”

Thomas, typically, has missed the deeper meaning. Jesus had often referred to himself as “the way,” as in “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” “You can know the way to the Father because I am The Way.”

It is a beautiful depth of truth.

But it does not work.

Philip cuts to the chase: “This idea is much too fancy. Just show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.”

Shocking. Philip has uttered a masterpiece of practical misunderstanding. Jesus, now shocked too, says, “Have I been with you so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.”

This is exactly the nuance that their shaken souls could not look at, the oneness of Trinitarian presence. God’s love has been incarnated. It can never leave us, not really, not even to go to some far-away, roomy house. God is in Jesus and Jesus is in the world and he sends his Spirit to show us The Way.

Let the apostles look high and low for their “practical” answer. Underneath the natural, pragmatic, practical world there exists a vast, quiet grandeur: God’s infinitely loving presence.

John Foley, SJ

Fr. John Foley, SJ is a composer and scholar at Saint Louis University.
 

**From Saint Louis University

Kristin Clauson