2020.05.10 Fifth Sunday of Easter
Updated: May 9
“I AM THE WAY, THE TRUTH AND THE LIGHT”
The image of Christ Pantocrator was one of the first images of Christ developed in the Early Christian Church and remains a central icon of the Eastern Orthodox Church.
In the half-length image, Christ holds the New Testament in his left hand and makes the gesture of teaching or of blessing with his right.
The icon, traditionally half-length when in a semi-dome, which later became adopted for panel icons also, depicts Christ fully frontal with a somewhat melancholy and stern aspect.
An icon where Christ has an open book is called "Christ the Teacher", a variant of the Pantocrator.
Christ is bearded, his brown hair centrally parted, and his head is surrounded by a halo. The icon is usually shown against a gold background comparable to the gilded grounds of mosaic depictions of the Christian emperors.
Often, the name of Christ is written on each side of the halo, as IC and XC. Christ's fingers are depicted in a pose that represents the letters IC, X and C, thereby making the Christogram:
· ICXC (for "Jesus Christ").
· The IC is composed of the Greek characters iota (Ι) and lunate sigma (C; instead of Σ, ς)—the first and last letters of 'Jesus' in Greek (Ἰησοῦς);
· in XC the letters are chi (Χ) and again the lunate sigma—the first and last letters of 'Christ' in Greek (Χριστός).
In many cases, Christ has a cruciform halo inscribed with the letters Ο Ω Ν, i.e. ὁ ὤν "He Who Is".
1 “‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And you know the way to the place where I am going’. 5 Thomas said to him, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?’ 6 Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him’.
8 Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied’. 9 Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father’”.
Jesus is already in Jerusalem. He is facing the last events of his life. The Gospel of John is the only one that does not retell the words of the Institution of the Eucharist in the Last Supper. John substitutes it with the washing of the feet. His catechetical purpose becomes very clear: the Eucharist is the greatest act of service: Jesus offers his life and the disciple will do the same for his brothers and sisters.
Chapter 13 closes with the announcement of the denial of Peter. It is in this context that we hear these words of Jesus: “Do not let your hearts be troubled…”
Jesus comforts the dwindling faith of the disciples in this most terrible hour of suffering!
These words stand as the Last Will and Testament of Jesus, his last words to his disciples. It is in this atmosphere that Jesus reveals the most important truth about himself. Jesus revealed his identity in many ways through his works, he now does it through his words before giving the last witness of love: the Paschal Mystery!
In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places
The first reason for consolation
This dwelling place literally means the resting houses or stations along the highways, where travellers found refreshment. Jesus says that that is his and our destination, the place where God dwells, very much opposed to the Temple of Jerusalem as the dwelling place of God according to the Jewish mentality.
Christ by His death, resurrection, and ascension opened heaven, and made ready a place for man. There are no worries about space; all can have access to the Heart of God.
I will come again
Second reason for consolation.
The next coming of Jesus will bring to fulfilment the promises He had passed on to the disciples for fullness of life and life eternal. Here, He is not referring to the coming of the “Holy Spirit”, because when Jesus sent the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, Jesus is not taking them with him.
However, Jesus makes one thing clear: wherever He is, there salvation is. His words are very consoling: “where I am, there you may be also”.
He has gone there as a forerunner (prodromos), blazing the way to heaven that we may follow his steps.
Thomas wants to see
We have already met Thomas a few weeks ago. His desire to have a personal experience of the Risen Lord gave rise to the most perfect profession of faith in the divinity of Christ.
Thomas’ curiosity is similar to the innocence of a child who wants to understand to be able to adhere, and once again we find one of the most descriptive spiritual understandings of the identity of Jesus: “I am the way, the truth and the life”.
Jesus is the Way
Think of how different it is to hear directions from a person when you are new in a place, from having that person telling you: “Follow me, I will take you to your destination”.
The Jews were conversant with the ways of the Lord, but the risk of missing the target was high, too. The Old Testament is full of warnings against those who think they know the ways of God, but are not able to follow them.
The disciple of Jesus finds in him the answer to the plea of the writer (Psalm 27:11): “Teach me your way, Lord; Lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors”.
Jesus is the Truth
The faithful Jew strives to find the truth, and God leads us to the Truth.
In the Bible truth is not just an idea or knowledge about something, but rather, an experience of goodness against the uneasiness and the shameful fruit of lies and falsehood.
Because, there is a remarkable difference between knowing/teaching about the truth and being able to show the truth through one’s own life.
Jesus embodies the teaching and his own life is the best guideline to know the will of God for us. In this sense, we can say without fear that Jesus is the Answer to our inmost genuine desires.
Jesus is the Life
This sentence poses for us a question about the meaning of our existence: “What gives us ‘life’? What keeps us ‘moving’? What is it that enthuses us and makes us do things right?
As the saying goes, ‘Not all that glitters is gold’:
· however painful, correction and instruction can lead us to life;
· however delightful, pleasures and self-content can lead us to frustration and disillusionment;
· however disliking it may be, discipline has led us to a goodness, restrictive as it may seem to be.
Where do we find the true meaning of things, and the final outcome of what we decide today?
Jesus as our true and only mediator
Our missionary endeavours and attitudes can be enlightened by the fact that Jesus is the surer and only Person who can lead us to life here, to the Father.
We do not say that others are just wrong, or that other religions are all false. By recognizing the truth that others hold, the beauty found in other religious experiences, we desire to share our own life transforming experience of a personal contact with the Risen Christ, the One sent by the Father, God-Self made human, and not just for a future of bliss in paradise, but for abundance of life on earth. This is a gift for all, not just for the few.
Philip and Thomas
It is the turn of Philip to interrupt the discourse of Jesus. If Thomas asked about knowledge, Philips asks about seeing the Father.
The answer of Jesus contains a Christian teaching about consubstantiation of Jesus and the Father. The kernel of the Catholic teaching about the meaning and relationships within the Holy Trinity and the difference of persons in the same Godhead.
But the Gospel of John does not waste time in explaining complicated theologies, it only provides the precious impression of Jesus’ own understanding of his divine participation.
We would rather not be lost in rationalizing a truth (dogma) that is existential, lived and experienced in our daily life: only God could be as human as Jesus was;
· in Jesus we can see who God truly is;
· the words and signs Jesus said and did are the guiding leitmotiv for our existence.
Who can do greater things than those done by Jesus?
The New Testament goes on telling how Jesus’ disciples continued to perform miracles in the name of Jesus in the Acts of the Apostles but, is this what Jesus means when He says that “we” would do even greater miracles than the ones he performed?
If we look at what humankind has achieved since the lifetime of Jesus until today, we should stand in awe: technical advancement, the development of sciences, or the medical profession, just to mention some, has grown exponentially, to the point that a healing by a simple cure would be the greater miracle to a contemporary of Jesus.
These days we are witnessing the miraculous power of the Spirit of God at work in so many doctors and nurses giving their lives for the lives of the sick.
Who has put that desire to serve and risk their lives if not the power of the Spirit of God within them, whether they recognize this or not!
Jesus’ preaching was restricted to Palestine and his Word worked miracles during his three years of ministry, but how many innumerable lives and cultures the Gospel has transformed through history thanks to the Power of the Spirit at work in the Church.
It was indeed necessary for Jesus to ascend to the Father so that His transforming action could overcome the limits of time and space.
My wayward heart seems to be always looking for something to worry about. Positive as I may try to be, there has been no time in history that would not give me enough reasons to be troubled and anxious about.
I realize it is high time I should come to You today, to hear You telling me other reasons for which I should be thankful, so that I may raise a prayer of praise to your Holy Name.
Made A Way
Salt of the Sound
From the steepest slopes of the valley I'm in,
To the ocean depths where I'm without air to breathe;
From the stormy path where I lost my way,
You have made a way and you've made it plain for me.
'Cause you, you have made a way for me.
Oh you, yes you have made a way for me.
As I walk this road with my heart on my sleeve
In the darkest night there are voices calling out to me.
Will you stay with me 'til I find my way back.
Help me break away so I take the place you have chosen for me.
'Cause you, you have made a way for me.
Oh you, you, have made a way, yes you've made a way for me.
'Cause you, you have made a way for me.
Oh you, yes you have made a way, yes you've made a way for me.
Oh you, you made a way for me.
Songwriters: Anita Tatlow / Benjamin Tatlow
A couple of weeks ago we had the chance to contemplate how the road of our life was, as we ‘travelled along with Jesus and the Disciples of Emmaus’. Jesus then ‘explained how suffering is part of the journey’.
Today, we contemplate the same road of our lives, again, by the side of Jesus. We let our heart rest for a moment as if our head would rest on his shoulder and find relieve for whatever anxiety, worry or preoccupation comes our way during this difficult time.
Like a doubting Thomas, once again, we come to Jesus and tell him: “let us understand. We do not know where You are leading us!”
Or like an unbelieving Philip we ask Jesus: “show us God present by our side in the midst of affliction; now that we see the senseless suffering of so many who have lost their health, their job, their loved ones, their career, or their future to this pandemic”.
We want to repeat in our hearts once again the words of Psalm 27:11: “Teach me your way, Lord; Lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors”.
· “Teach me, Lord”
· “Lead me, Lord”
· “Save me from what oppresses me, Lord”.
 John 2:16: “He told those who were selling the doves, ‘Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!’”  BARCLAY, William, “The Daily Study Bible. The Gospel of John Vol. 2”, The Saint Andrew Press, 1975, p. 155 “The harbour of Alexandria was very difficult to approach. When the great corn ships came into it a little pilot boat was sent out to guide them along the channel into safe waters. That pilot boat was called the prodromos. It went first to make it safe for others to follow. That is what Jesus did”. Hebrews 6:19-20: “We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus, a forerunner on our behalf, has entered, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek”.  Deut. 5:32-33: “So be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess”. Deut. 31:29: “For I know that after my death you are sure to become utterly corrupt and to turn from the way I have commanded you. In days to come, disaster will fall on you because you will do evil in the sight of the Lord and arouse his anger by what your hands have made.” Isa. 30:21: “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it’”. Isa. 35:8: “And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk on that Way. The unclean will not journey on it; wicked fools will not go about on it”.  Psalm 86:11: “Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name”. Psalm 26:3: “For I have always been mindful of your unfailing love and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness”. Psalm 119:30: “I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I have set my heart on your laws”.  Prov. 6:23: “For this command is a lamp, this teaching is a light, and correction and instruction are the way to life”.  Prov. 10:17: “Whoever heeds discipline shows the way to life, but whoever ignores correction leads others astray”.  Deut. 30:19: “I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live”.  Psalm 16:11: “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand”.