‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith in me, also. I go to prepare a place for you…for where I am you will be also…and you know the way’. Thomas then expresses what I think we would ask if we were in his shoes: ‘we don’t know where you are going, how can we know the way’? Jesus answers ‘I am the way, the truth and the life.’ In Give us This Day there is a brief reflection on this passage from John’s gospel. The author frames the dialogue between Thomas and Jesus in terms of ‘pilgrimage’. We are all on pilgrimage with Jesus as our guide; and the author adds: “Early Christianity was called ‘The Way’ before it was a church or a formal religion” (May 2014, p.172). What a striking image – ‘The Way’ to describe the nascent beginnings of Christianity. We all (as individuals and as a people) are on a pilgrimage and Jesus offers a Pattern of the Way; Jesus IS the Pattern we are following to the fullness of Truth and Life.
What also helped me to find new meaning to these words of Jesus was a reflection by Christian Wiman in his book My Bright Abyss. Wiman a poet himself comments on the words of another religious poet who says: ‘God is distant, difficult.’ Wiman says that what this statement does to us mostly is it gives us a “false comfort, for it asks nothing immediate of us…” (p.120). He goes on to say that “To believe in—to serve—Christ, on the other hand, is quite difficult, and precisely because of how near he is to us at all times” (p.120). How close God is in Christ – the way, the truth, the life – close at all times in all aspects of our humanity. Does not his closeness shift the entire horizon of our lives, of the life of this community, of the lives of all those persons who come here for prayer, liturgy, and community? It shifts even the horizon of how we perceive world events and hold them in prayer…prayer, which perhaps is the ultimate way to transform darkness into light and new life. If God is this close to us…always…then the way, truth and life…this Divine pattern…is front and center of all that is part of our lives. Everything shifts in breadth and depth; and this shift does ask something of us: of dropping our defenses, of going an extra mile when we would prefer to stay right where we are, of stretching our sight in order to see others more as Jesus would, of offering our lives daily for life, of not counting the cost in spreading the ‘joy of the gospel’, the ‘gospel’, the ‘good news’, which is the Way. When we enter this Divine Pattern we enter Christ’s Way, which is truth and life, which is the Paschal event, risen life out of death, new life, God’s life. We are on pilgrimage: ‘we move, live have our being’ in this encompassing horizon of Divine life.
Why do we need a Way? Pope Francis in his first apostolic exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, writes: “Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction” (p.4). Our encounter with Jesus, with his life, with his Word, does indeed give our lives a new horizon and decisive direction. A Way is held before us, which calls us beyond our selves, into the very life and being of God. It is a Way of hope, of beauty, of taking up our cross daily, of unrequited Love, a Way where we find our true face, this face of God that we each are so human and still radiating the Divine face, Christ, in and through our lives.