Readings: Acts 6:1-7; I Peter 2:4-9; John 14:1-12
You know and I know that Jesus is the Way and that whoever has seen Jesus has seen the Father. Either we were raised on that belief or we were converted to that belief. But when was the last time I saw Jesus? That’s the tricky bit.
In other words, is what I can say about Jesus and what I think I know about Jesus or what I believe about Jesus–is all of that just an idea? Is it just another opinion? Is it in any way concrete in my life? This is where being a disciple of Jesus becomes challenging, even disturbing. I may feel that when I have to face a crisis and do not know which way to turn. Just as seriously, the question may fail to emerge when all goes well and I’m surrounded by blessings and revel in them without a hint of gratitude.
Perhaps Philip’s question is not so inappropriate and I need to think it through. Have I just been presuming that I know God because I think I know Jesus? Do I just know the catechism?
Now, I’m not dismissing the importance of knowing our faith and learning more about it or feeding my mind. That knowledge, that doctrinal information can orient my life as nothing else can. But they are gateways, not ends in themselves. If I opt to sit within the enclosure of that teaching and never pass through those gates into the bigger world to live out that faith and to walk the Way towards the horizon of the resurrection, what am I doing with my life? If I never venture out of the architectural masterpiece of doctrine about Jesus, will I ever encounter the Lord of life? Could I ever mistake a photo of my mother for the woman who brought me to life? And yet, may I not be doing something similar in regard to the good Lord?
When I began meditating on this passage from St. John’s Gospel, I was ready to suggest that Jesus is as close as the person next to me; I’ve certainly said something like that in the past. But is that too glib? What if the person next to me is a Cesare Borgia (you may know him from TV) or an Adolph Hitler–you fill in the blank! Could someone like that communicate Christ?
I remember a lifetime ago when I did intervention work in jails, a prisoner in maximum security dangerous enough never to be allowed out of his cell unaccompanied by four guards, never let out unless everyone else was in lock-up. He looked ordinary enough though his charges were horrific. He didn’t appear enraged or act rebelliously. He seemed self-possessed and fearless, detached and cool. The only human affect left in him was curiosity and I found that chilling. Perhaps that pitiless curiosity had landed him where he was. I would want to respect his human dignity, but could he ever communicate Jesus to me? But is that the same as claiming that Jesus was absent from our encounter? Amen. amen I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do and will do greater ones than these.
It is not unknown that even when I don’t know what I believe anymore, but stumble forward trusting in Jesus, and when I dare to do the works he does, he is truly there. It’s as if it were the first day of creation and God had just created the light of faith. Don’t take my word: what does your life teach you?