Way, Truth and Life


The question seems desperate enough. Here is Thomas, the lost and late disciple, who knows the Lord is about to “go away”. He asks about the way to get to where Jesus was going, wherever that was, to the house with many rooms.

Instead of a map to the treasure house, Jesus replies cryptically, “I am the way, the truth, and the life”. No one gets there but through me.

It almost sounds like a riddle, this answer, much the same way Jesus riddled them earlier when he washed their feet as a bent slave before the Paschal meal that memorialized their being slaves no more. 

Here He is, about to depart and instead of pointing to another way, telling another truth, and taking them to another life, He says there is no other way, no other truth, no other life. He says I am all there is to “it”, as far as “it” goes. Like the rest of us, Philip does not get it and he asks Jesus to “show us the Father” and that would be enough. This time, it is Jesus who is riddled by the strangeness of the request; he patiently explains to us that to have seen him is to have seen God.

The Way. In the internet, we often come across pages and portals that lead us to all sorts of places on the web. These clickable doorways compete for our attention and allegiance. We bookmark them in the hope that these pathways will get us to the places we want to go.

The first reading this Sunday contains bookmarks to the Way who is Christ. There we are shown disciples who are ordained to serve the material needs of the widows, so that the Twelve can devote themselves to prayer and the ministry of the Word. It is also a sign of the beginnings of differentiation and structure in the early church. The Spirit remains the same, animating this rich diversity of persons and ministries in the one Body of Christ. Feeding, praying, proclaiming: these and countless other charisms converge upon the Way who is Christ.

When Jesus tells us he is the Way, we are reminded that the journey itself is just as vital as the destination; that it is not just the fruit itself, but the very process of bearing fruit (if at all) that matters as well.  Redemption happens along the via crucis and not only on Calvary itself.  Revelation happens while walking to Emmaus and not only in Emmaus itself.

The Truth. You’d think the early church would have gotten this during the early, heady days of the first Easter. But no, the complaint of the Hellenic (or Greek) Christians that their women were not being fed suggests that there were many Christians in name only. “Magpakatotoo ka”, admonishes a familiar softdrink ad. We are repelled by people who are “plastic”, in other words, people who are artificial and untruthful.

It is Jesus who takes down these masks, revealing God and us to ourselves. Unmasked, we see again through the lens of his life and stories and teaching that indeed we are created in the image and likeness of God. If we fallen parents can care so much about our children who bear our likeness, how then can God not care about us who bear His likeness? And if God cares about us to be slave enough to wash our feet, what does that make of those who have a habit of lording it over others, especially the weak?  This much we know about the truth: as Jesus is God’s so too are we God’s very own.

The Life. The very reason for celebrating the Truth and walking the Way is Life. Jesus the Son of God lived and died and rose among us so that we may have life, and have it to the full. We all have notions of what a full life could and should be. Our deepest longings tell us that a full life is one that is lived in communion with those we truly love. A disconnected, fragmented, under-offered life only and always leaves us empty. We only find fullness of life when we no longer worry about our own fullness.

When the Sumilao farmers came to Xavier University on the way back to their farms in Bukidnon, one of their leaders shared how he now knows God to be true. Tinuod Siya. Their struggle of course is far from over. But he knows God to be True from all those who have given them Life as they walked the difficult Way to the fullness they are still longing for.

Way, Truth, and Life, when predicated of the Lord, no longer seem cryptic.

(Fr. Villarin is President of Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro City. For feedback on this column, e-mail [email protected])







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