26 April 2013

Way, Truth, Life

4th Week of Easter (F) 
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP 
St. Dominic Church, NOLA 

Jesus has just finished washing his disciples' feet at the Last Supper. He's given them a new commandment, and told them that he must leave them. Simon Peter wants to know where the Lord is going and why he can't come with him. Jesus responds by telling Peter that he will deny his teacher three times before the dawn. Seeing his disciples heartbroken and feeling abandoned, Jesus says to them, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.” What else is a broken heart but a soul that's lost its will to believe, its desire to trust? We're not witnessing a gaggle of teenaged girls moon over the latest pop star; or a bunch of men mourning the loss of a drinking buddy. The disciples are genuinely anxious about Jesus' departure. This group of hardworking men—men who've followed him all over the country—are devastated to learn that their teacher is leaving them behind. “Do not let your hearts be troubled,” Jesus says, “I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.” If we don't know where he's going, how will we know how to get there? 

It's Thomas, the one who doubted the testimony of his fellow disciples, who asks the question we all want to ask, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Is it not enough that he's told us that he will be back for us? Is it not enough that he's gone ahead to prepare our places in his Father's house? No. Not nearly enough. We want to know where Jesus is going, and we want to know how to get there by ourselves. Why do we think we need this information? He's leaving us. He's just walking away from us and everything we've done together. How do we know he's coming back? Are we supposed to just believe that he's coming back? With no backup plan? No fail-safe in case things don't work out as planned? Jesus says, “You have faith in God; have faith also in me.” That's the backup plan: have faith. That's the fail-safe: trust in him. In other words, when it comes to believing in the One the Father sent to free us from sin and death, there is no backup plan. There is faith, and there is worry; trust and anxiety. If your heart is troubled, you have chosen worry over faith, anxiety over trust. And the Way before you is muddled, twisted by the smog of pride and the need to control. Do not LET your heart be troubled. LET your heart be free.

We don't need to worry about where Jesus is going. We already know. He's going to the cross. And then on to sit at the Father's right hand. We don't need to worry about how we will find him. He tells us, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” To get to the Father, we must follow the way, the truth, and the life. The way of Christ, the truth of Christ, and the life of Christ; becoming, along that Way, Christs ourselves. This means we are all heading toward the cross as well. And while on this trek to our deaths, we will doubt the testimony of our fellow disciples; we will deny Christ before the dawn and after; we will resist the urge to trust God's love for us; and we will beg the Lord not to leave us even though we know he must. (We can't follow behind a leader who will not move ahead of us.) While we stumble, fall, shove, and get back up to walk along the Way, we should hear Jesus say to us, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” Yes, it's a choice we make to let our hearts be troubled or not. Choose faith and trust in God. Choose to put your faith and trust in Christ. We know all that we need to know to make it to heaven. But it is not knowledge that saves us. Faith brings us close to God. And faith in His Christ brings us closer still.

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you for setting the scene (literally and emotionally) in the first paragraph. Really liked: "What else is a broken heart but a soul that's lost its will to believe, its desire to trust?"

    Second paragraph really grabbed me. Faith - trust - "LET" your heart be free.' Very challenging (for me), and I very much appreciated hearing it.

    "And on this trek...." & "While we stumble....": excellent way to direct us (me) in on some reality. Rest of final paragraph brought it all home, focusing us in on the "choice" - the choosing - and Faith.

    Success - tears! Thank you. :-) Excellent.