I AM THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE
Fifth Sunday of Easter (A)
Scripture Readings: Acts 6:1-7; Psalms 33:1-2, 4-5, 18-19; 1Peter 2:4-9; John 14:1-12
My dear encountered couples:
“We do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Thomas speaks for all of us. Sure, we know that Jesus was talking about his going to heaven to be with his Father. But where is heaven?
Many people think of it as a place, while theologians tell us it is not a place but a state of being, a state of existing in a full union of love and happiness with God. Still we expect that we ourselves will be somewhere – only God is everywhere. So maybe we could think that where heaven is for us is where we will be when we are in that full union with God. So, in that sense heaven can be thought of, I guess, as a state of being as well as a place.
One thing heaven is not. It is not a figment of the imagination. It is a reality. It is not a pipe dream, it is not a castle in the sky that will evaporate; it’s not a mental mirage. Heaven is real and we are meant to live in it with Jesus Christ, with his and our Father, with the Holy Spirit, and all angels and people who accept the invitation to follow Jesus there. Probably we will find all deceased animals there too - tame and gentle - amidst all the beauties of trees and plant life.
Jesus told the disciples that he was going there to be with his Father. But when he said, “You know the way that leads where I go,” Thomas begged Jesus' pardon by remarking, “We don't even know where you're going. How can we know the way?” Thomas wasn't one to shake his head in agreement and be left wondering what it was he agreed to. He wanted to get this thing clear in his mind.
Since there is no interstate or even a dirt path leading to heaven, Jesus gave him the best answer he could. “Just follow me Thomas.” “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through me.” That must have satisfied Thomas because he doesn't seem to ask any more questions. He was going to keep his eyes on Jesus and follow him to his Father.
Later, however, Thomas must have run into more difficulty, the same kind that we have. Come Ascension Thursday, and Jesus disappears. How was Thomas going to keep his eyes on him? He must have finally figured it out because the Church has declared Thomas a saint and all departed saints are in heaven.
I wonder if Thomas is still bugging everybody with questions. If he isn't, maybe we should - especially if we desire eternal happiness and don't have too clear of an idea how to get it. Let us look again at what Jesus said: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me.”
Since we can't see Jesus with the pretty blue or brown or green eyes that are located somewhere above our noses, we must see him with the eyes of our minds. How do we do that?
Well, by getting into the habit of often thinking about Jesus, of directing our attention to him. We must learn how to handle distractions that attract us and draw us away for too long a time from thinking of Jesus Christ.
But let me caution you if you have not already discovered this. If you try all at once to spend all your waking moments thinking of Jesus, you will not only feel a nervous breakdown coming on but you will find yourself neglecting many duties.
You will be like the lovesick adolescent staring off into space dreaming of the prince or princess - while the rest of the world is getting things done - sort of the Mary Syndrome of Martha and Mary fame. Remember, Mary sat at the feet of Jesus while Martha prepared the dinner. But let us also remember, Jesus said that Mary had chosen the better part. That's the favorite saying of Jesus for many professional goof-offs.
Maybe I can come up with a better example. Imagine a person named Joseph who is very committed and reliable in carrying out his many responsibilities in life, while at the same time deeply in love with someone named Mary.
Joseph goes through his day separated from Mary in body, usually keeping his mind on his work. But all of the time deep inside him dwells the motivating force of much of his energy for doing his work well. His love and thoughts of Mary warms, inspires, and enthuses him to strive for excellence in his work and through his striving becomes more excellent as a human being himself. Even though Mary is not always the object of his conscious attention, she is always there somewhere in his mind and in his heart.
Another example: A wife and mother who deeply loves her husband and children. She cooks, cleans, chauffeurs, shops, and maybe even works out of the home. Her attention is required to carry out all these jobs well. But if she is stopped and asked, “Why are you doing this,” immediately the loving wife and mother will answer, “For my husband and children of course.”
This is how we are to keep our eyes on Jesus. St. Thomas certainly must have learned to do this. If we really accept the love of Jesus and want to love him in return, we will try to do what he has told us. We will try to learn and carry out our Father's will. While giving our attention to the work we are to do, to the people we are to love, Jesus will be deep in our minds and hearts.
When the day comes that you answer the question, “Why are you doing that” with “For Jesus of course” and really mean it, then you are following the way, the truth, and the life. You are following Jesus as he leads you to his Father and yours in heaven.