5th Sunday of Easter A

I have been following St. Thomas a lot this year.  We heard him showing great courage when Jesus decides to return to Judea to raise Lazarus from the dead.  As all his enemies are waiting for Jesus there, he says to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go to die with him.”  Then we witnessed most famously his denial of the resurrection after the others have seen the risen Lord.  “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”  When you put those two statements together, you realize that Thomas was neither primarily brave nor doubtful.  He is a realist.  So it is not surprising as Jesus gives his speech to the disciples at the Last Supper, saying, “Do not let your hearts be troubled,” when the whole world is closing in on them and then says, “Where I am going you know the way,” you can almost picture the scene.  All the apostles, nodding their heads politely as what Jesus says is going directly and swiftly over their heads. Thomas probably looked around, sighed and rose his hand and did his duty by saying, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?”

And of course, Jesus responds in the most comprehensive way possible.  “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”  What a stunning statement.  How it must have gripped those who were in the room with him.  What a startling revelation.  It was and is almost too much consume in one breath.  Jesus is the answer.  Entire philosophical systems were designed to seek the way and the truth and the life.  It has been the goal of politics. But Jesus insists that it not in a book or at a school of philosophy from which life derives its meaning.  It is through him.

And if it were difficult to accept this massive statement then, how much more difficult is it to do so now?  In an age of relativism, does this make any sense?  When every way is considered a valid way, when every truth is true as long as you believe it, when every life chooses its own meaning, how can, “I am the way and the truth and the life,” seem plausible, if not outright egotistical.

The only thing I can do is to check it with my life.  For example, we have or will have all lost our way in life.  How did you find your back?  For me, it is when I turn outward or find a reason to love someone else, that I find my way back; I discover myself again.  And that just happens to be the way of Jesus who urged us to look beyond our self and our own satisfaction so that we might entrust ourselves to another. His way is the way of the other before ourselves. That is the way that has worked for me.

And his truth is far superior to anything I could conceive.  Would I have known that feeding my selfish need for vengeance injures a world in a way only forgiveness can heal?  There is no chance I could have figured that we are joined so intimately and perfectly – that we were made for harmony and not discord.  I prefer his truth to whatever has been or could be proposed.  His truth is best called wisdom because it is governed by love and by mercy.

And finally, when I seek to know what I have valued in my life, it is never what I have gained or taken.  Ultimately, it is what I have given and preferably even given up.  It my love for others that will leave my mark on the world and to the degree that love was selfless is how I can measure my success.  This is called in Greek kenosis, or emptying out.  And no word better sums up the life of Jesus but the one who had everything and left with nothing for he gave it all to us.

So with all due respect to everyone’s way and their truth and their life, unless it can all funnel back to love, it has no value to me.  Jesus Christ is the way and the truth and the life because his love is perfect.

There is an intriguing line toward the end of the Gospel.  “Whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.”  How can we do greater works than Jesus?  Well the work of Christ was to bring people to his Father.  We have done these works exceedingly well.  There are likely about as many people who are members of this parish as there were followers of Jesus in his lifetime.  But the work goes on for there are still those who have lost their way.  There are still those who seek the truth but cannot find it “out there.”  So many want meaning to their life, but cannot possibly find it in an answer that is not ultimate.

Let them come and see Jesus.  We need not sell it as Jesus is the solution to all their problems. That can only be found by the person themselves.  But we trust once they have heard his word and tasted his presence they will know there is an answer for all they seek.  Jesus Christ is the way and the truth and the life.