I AM THE WAY AND THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE. NO ONE COMES TO THE FATHER EXCEPT THROUGH ME.  The Lord Jesus spoke these words, Saint John tells us in his Gospel, at a most solemn occasion. They would be remembered in their context, which was the final meal taken with his intimate circle during his mortal life.  This Paschal meal was itself an occasion for intimate sharing of a common history that bound the participants in the same beliefs and values. Quite naturally the occasion gave rise to discussion between the group and their teacher who presided at this celebration. Since our Lord realized that his arrest and death were impending, he sought to prepare his companions for the coming shock of his passion. Accordingly, he speaks of the violent events to come in a positive manner, as a departure for a happy reunion to take place in the presence of God his Father. “Do not be troubled at heart”, he reassures them, “you believe in God, believe also in me.”  He goes on to add “I am going to prepare a place for you.” It was upon seeing that his disciples failed to grasp the implications of his statement that Jesus used the occasion to make the sweeping revelation that carries their discussion to a deeper and more personal level.  I AM THE WAY AND THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE. NO ONE COMES TO THE FATHER EXCEPT THROUGH ME.

The better to realize the significance of these words it is helpful to advert to the fact that the Qumran community was at the time maintaining that it alone of the Jewish community served God with the valid religion through following what they spoke of as the Way that they associated with truth. They employed the same Hebrew terms (Derek & emeth) that stand behind the Greek words that John uses in recording Jesus’ teaching here. The significance of this fact is noteworthy in that our Lord personalizes the claim being made at the time by the sectarians at Qumran. The true way of truth that leads to eternal life, he proclaims, is his own person. He identifies himself as being the one true way that is the fullness of life.

If we turn our attention to the teaching that there is a way (Derek in Hebrew) that brings the traveler into union with God we discover the importance of the concept of a ‘’Way” in all the major writings of the Hebrew bible. The word derek occurs 710 times in the Old Testament writings. It is not the only term for a way, road, path and related meanings; there are twelve different words that designate some such ideas as a way, whether in the material sense or in some metaphorical meaning. Jesus himself, of course, was very familiar with these facts so that when he identified himself as representing the true way of life. He is claiming to fulfill one of the major features of the Jewish religion. In doing so he emphasizes for his followers the fact that the laws, institutions, and practices of the true revelation culminate in his person and the acts and words that he expresses in his life on earth. That he reveals this fact shortly before his passion and death lends emphatic solemnity to this way of understanding his fuller identity.  Implied in his words in this context is the claim that he states in explicit terms in an earlier occasion when he declared “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30)    

These words of our Savior retain all the weight of significance for us today as they held for his apostles during his lifetime. In a very accessible form, in fact, the words of today’s Gospel provide a practical response to the crucial question that confronts every human being at some moment: “What does life mean for me?”  The Lord himself points to the only satisfying and practical answer to this query in the final words of today’s Gospel where he declares that “No one comes to the Father except through me.” For he had also was to assure us in the course of this same discourse that to know the Father and the Son whom the Father sends is itself eternal life (John 17:3).

 We here at this Eucharist are favored with the knowledge of this great truth while so many others remain in the darkness of spiritual ignorance. May we always prove worthy of so generous a favor by our fidelity to this teaching revealed by the Lord Jesus. Even now at this holy sacrifice through communion with our Risen Savior he proves to be our way, our truth and our life. Let us then thank the Father for the grace of our faith and trust that for His chosen ones he gives even now the one satisfying meaning to our existence which is union with Him who created us, By His mercy, may we be strong in the firm hope of eternal life in his loving presence. V

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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