Easter Daily Gospel Reflection - 1 April 2013
“Don’t be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me. My Father’s house has room to spare. If that weren’t the case, would I have told you that I’m going to prepare a place for you? When I go to prepare a place for you, I will return and take you to be with me so that where I am you will be too. You know the way to the place I’m going.”
Thomas asked, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?”
Jesus answered, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you have really known me, you will also know the Father. From now on you know him and have seen him.”
Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father; that will be enough for us.”
Jesus replied, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been with you all this time? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I have spoken to you I don’t speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me does his works. Trust me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or at least believe on account of the works themselves. I assure you that whoever believes in me will do the works that I do. They will do even greater works than these because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask for in my name, so that the Father can be glorified in the Son. When you ask me for anything in my name, I will do it.
This passage is one of the most controversial passages in the Bible. When Jesus said, “I’m the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father-Mother except through me,” people have taken this to mean that the religion of Christianity is the only true religion; that if people aren’t “saved” they can’t go to “heaven;” that everyone who doesn’t believe in Jesus will be tortured forever. I don’t know about you, but I don’t see any of that in Jesus’ words. Neither do I see any of that in Jesus whole life and ministry. So, something’s not right somewhere, and I would venture to say it’s our interpretation.
This passage goes back to the previous chapter. The context is the final meal Jesus has with his followers. It’s a solemn time. The cloud of the raging storm is almost upon them and Jesus knows it. The weight of the world is upon him. He’s about to have to endure the greatest burden the world has ever known; yet he knows that it will mean the rescue of all creation. That knowledge doesn’t make what coming any less troubling, though.
During that meal, Jesus washed the feet of his followers - including Judas the betrayer. He then tells them that he’ll be betrayed; that one of his closest friends will sell him out. Not only that, he knows that all of them will run away from the oncoming storm and deny even knowing him; even Peter, one of his closest friends.
So, this conversation is a somber one, to say the least. But that’s the context of the passage above.
There are a couple of things we need to clear up, too. First of all, Jesus isn’t talking about “heaven,” or, our Western, traditional, understanding of “heaven.” When Jesus talks about “going” to prepare a “place,” he’s not talking about going far, far away - to a distant world or anything like that. He’s talking about G_d’s space or dimension of our world - the space that the ancient Celtic Christians knew was so integrated that the two parts can’t separated (we can see this depicted in their artwork). Using the language of a home, Jesus is saying that he’s preparing a place for others - this isn’t a literal mansion, but a way of saying that through his death and resurrection, other will now be able have access to G_d’s dimension in a new and powerful way. And there’s one path, one way, to G_d’s dimension.
And that path in not the Christian religion. It’s the path itself. the way of living that Jesus personified and taught about - the path of self-sacrificial love. All throughout his ministry, Jesus talked about this way, lived this way, and, in the context of this passage, demonstrated it and gave his friends a command to live it. That’s the path, that’s the way to G_d the Father-Mother - not through the Christian religion, but through giving of oneself to others, of loving them more than we do ourselves. The Way of Jesus is the way of the cross, of denying ourselves in love and service of the Other.
Furthermore, The Way of Jesus is not only the way to G_d but the Way of G_d. Once more, the connection between Jesus and G_d is blurred. “If you’ve seen me,” he said, “you’ve seen the Father-Mother.” This is a radical idea, but one that the New Testament writers were keen on conveying. St. Paul wrote that Jesus is “the image of G_d.” Therefore, the whole understanding of what we think G_d is must be reexamined through the lens that is Jesus of Nazareth. If The Way of Jesus is the same as The Way of G_d, then we have to re-envision our understanding of all the things that pertain to G_d - love, mercy, and judgment. The stories we read from our sacred books and the action of people claiming to be acting on behalf of G_d will all need to be amended. While I know that can be a scary thing, that’s the task ahead of us. The claim of Jesus demands that we do that hard work.
And one of those things that will need to be reexamined is the idea that Jesus is keeping people out of G_d’s realm; that he is excluding anyone. His whole ministry was about bringing all people together in a new way of living and being. We have to look at our doctrines and dogmas with a new scrutiny and, with trembling hands, rewrite the ones that don’t line up to the vision of G_d found in the life, The Way, of Jesus.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC