This scripture passage, John 14:1-12, gives us a lot of food for thought. We have one of the “I am” statements so familiar in John’s Gospel. We have the disciples trying to process everything Jesus is telling them—and Jesus is teaching the disciples directly, no parables this time (although some say the “I am” statements are a form of parables). Jesus is preparing the disciples for when He is no longer with them—when they will have to live His message without His physical presence. However, the disciples are not able to understand what Jesus is trying to tell them. They ask questions—questions we may think are good to ask. Jesus is not an ineffective teacher—we are just slow to catch on. It is like Jesus is saying: "Come on, now. You know this. I've taught you this. We've been through this before, you and I.”
Jesus starts with asking the disciples to have faith in Him. They all have faith in God. They learned their faith from their parents, family, and friends. And now Jesus is asking them to have faith in Him. He says if they know Him, then they know the Father. The Father is in Him, and He is in the Father. Even if they don’t have faith because of that, they should have faith because of Jesus’ words and works that they have heard and seen. The disciples just are not seeing the obvious. Jesus is telling them: My teachings will guide your feet. My presence will sustain your spirit. In all the twists and turns your future path may take, 'I am the Way.’ Jesus is asking the disciples and us to open our eyes and to open our hearts to the will of God.
Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” Let’s start with “I am the way.” The first Christians were referred to as people of The Way. The image of the way is often a well-traveled path. To follow the way (Jesus) is a daily and frequent stroll along the path. It is a way of living every minute of every day, every decision, every action, every thought. We do not follow the path for just part of the day, or part of the year. We follow the way always, everywhere, and every day.
“I am the truth.” This reminds me of the wisdom figure, especially in proverbs. We have many images of the wisdom figure: a path or way, light, precious treasure, a fountain of life, and food for the journey. Jesus' "I am" sayings throughout the Gospel of John attribute these benefits of following wisdom's path to following Jesus: I am the Bread of life (6:35); I am the Light of the world (8:12); I am the Gate for the Sheep (10:7); I am the Good Shepherd (10:11); I am the Resurrection and the Life (11:25); I am the True Vine (15:1). Let these images help guide us along the way.
“I am the life.” Jesus became human to cleanse us of our sins. He died on the cross to save us. He gave us the Eucharist to give us life—and He is the life we receive in the Eucharist.
At the beginning of John 14, Jesus tells us, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. ” Now the disciples were troubled because they could not make sense of what they were hearing. Some continued to follow the way and some did not.
Let us repeat the word we prayed in the collect: “Almighty and living God, constantly accomplish the Paschal Mystery within us, that those you were pleased to make new in Holy Baptism may, under your protective care, bear much fruit and come to the joys of life eternal. Amen.
Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Catholic Edition, copyright © 1989, 1993 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Reflection by Sister Karen Sames, OSB