April 20, 2008
EASTER V (A)
Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?
- John 14: 5
The questions we ask can be very important because they determine the direction we will look for answers. Thomas thinks he is dealing with geography, so he looks for the wrong kind of answer to his question. By responding with “I am the way & the truth & the life,” Jesus is challenging him (& us) to think beyond the box.
The way that our Lord would have us follow involves a dynamic search. It is not something static, so that we can think that we’ve arrived, but an unending exploration of the Infinite that itself is as important as any particular answers we may grasp along the way. We are dealing with a Person, which means something that remains elusive & hard to pin down with our finite minds. It also means that the effort will be anything but boring.
First of all, the Way is a person. It is not enough to follow some role model. We must be transformed by the risen Christ so that it is not we who live, but He who dwells within us. This means that we must be like those first disciples (followers) who were transformed after the resurrection into apostles (people who are sent on a mission). I sometimes think we are rather too timid about this.
Secondly, the Truth is a person, not a set of propositions that we give assent to. Our thinking cannot by-pass the intellect with all its requirements, but it must surely transcend it. The Truth demands a kind of love that is hard for us ego-centered creatures to come by because it is so costly. Since nothing of value comes cheap, we cannot expect something of infinite value to be anything but expensive; yet the saints are there to remind us that it is NOT beyond our price range.
Finally, the Life is a Person Who transcends the norms of biological life. He vitalizes us & revives our souls in a way that only a lover can do. In short, He makes life worth living even when the chips are down & all seems black. Suicide is a temptation only when we have given up on God or think that He has given up on us.
What the Way, the Truth & the Life all add up to is service; but there is a peculiar Christian equation: greater means lesser. It is dangerous to wash the feet of others without having our own feet washed first. Service without humility translates into a patronizing attitude that is not lost on the targets of our efforts. C.S. Lewis put it this way: “She’s the sort of woman who lives for others – you can always tell the others by their hunted expression.” Humility makes the difference between true service & using others to boost our own ego.
We must admit to ourselves that often we do not know where our Lord is leading us, much less sending us; but why should that be so important? The important thing is that He is with us & we with him … not much else matters. In the words of the theologian Karl Barth, “If the Church believes what she declares she believes, she is the place where the victory of Jesus Christ is not the last word heard & passed on, but the first.” AMEN!