Jesus is the way to the Father
By Father Paul Turner
Catholic Key Scripture Columni
The Good News for the Fifth Sunday of Easter
1 Peter 2:4-9
We believe," we proudly con-fess every Sunday. Ever since the fourth and fifth centuries our church has announced this creed. At the Easter Vigil the creed appears twice in question form. Those to be baptized are each asked to assert their faith personally and strongly. Then all the faithful renew their baptismal promises. "Do you believe?" comes the question again and again. "I do," we respond.
Again and again the Scriptures of the Easter season summon us into this mystery of belief. We believe that Jesus is the Son of God. We believe that he is risen from the dead. We believe that he will come again. The Easter lectionary champions these beliefs. Next Sunday's Gospel (John 14:1-12) is no exception.
This passage comes from the farewell discourse Jesus gave the disciples at the Last Supper. The full text runs on for several chapters and is difficult to absorb in one setting. The lectionary breaks it into several pieces on the Fifth and Sixth Sundays of Easter each year. This year we will hear from the opening section in which Jesus identifies himself as the way, the truth and the life.
He reveals these titles in response to a question from Thomas. In John's Gospel we commonly run into characters not understanding who Jesus is or what he is saying. People ask questions that let Jesus explain more of his person and his mission. In next Sunday's passage, Jesus faces the misunderstanding of two disciples. Thomas wonders how they will ever know the way, and Philip wonders when they will see the Father. You can hear the exasperation in Jesus' voice when he says, "I am the way," and "Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me?"
Throughout the Easter season, the Sunday Scriptures help us meditate on the primary aspects of our religion. Several themes of this Gospel will enrich mystagogy sessions with the newly baptized. Chief among them, as happens so often in this season, is faith.
Faith. Next week's Gospel opens and closes with an appeal to faith. Jesus asks those who have faith in God to have faith also in him. He asks the disciples to believe that he is in the Father and the Father is in him. If they cannot believe his words, they should at least believe because of his works. Easter is above all a celebration of the faith in which we were baptized. It is a good time to discuss what we believe and why.
Jesus and the Father. Jesus and the Father are one. To believe in Jesus is to believe in his divinity. "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father." As the season progresses, the Gospels will also deal with the Holy Spirit. Next week we begin this meditation on the nature of God.
The way. Jesus is the way to the Father. Early Christianity called itself "the way." Just as a road leads to a destination, so Christianity leads to God. The way of the Christian life is more than procedures, laws and doctrines. The way is Jesus. To live the Christian life is to come to know Jesus.
Salvation. Salvation comes through Jesus. In calling himself the way, Jesus says no one comes to the Father except through him. In our church we believe that Jesus is the only means of salvation. Those who do not accept Christ may be saved, but their salvation comes through Jesus whom they do not fully know.
The return of Jesus. Jesus is going away, but he promises a return. The purpose of his coming again will be to bring the faithful home with him. "I will come back again and take you to myself." This promise of eternal happiness is one of the rewards of discipleship.
Performing great works. The great works that Jesus has done should facilitate belief. Those who believe will in turn perform great works. God is always active in the world, but especially through those who have faith and allow God to work marvels through them. The greatness of the world is proof of God's existence and of God's goodness.
All these themes can be gleaned from next Sunday's Gospel. They will prompt discussion among those who gathered around the new fire at the Easter Vigil, who proclaimed Christ as light, who heard the stories of salvation history, witnessed baptisms and renewed their own baptismal promises. "Do you believe?" "I do."
Father Paul Turner is the pastor of St. Munchin Parish, Cameron.