Year A: Fifth Sunday of Easter

I am the way the truth and the life

John 14: 1-12

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be. Where [I] am going you know the way.” Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said to him, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’ Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on my own. The Father who dwells in me is doing his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father. And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.

Discussion Questions:

  1. If you believe Jesus is the “the way and the truth and the life”, what are the qualities in Jesus you most admire and try to imitate in your daily living?

  2. How has coming to know Jesus deepened your relationship with God the Father?

  3. Within your personal prayer life and experience, how do you interpret Jesus’ statement; “if you ask anything in my name, I will do it”?

Biblical Context

John 14: 1-12
Sr. Mary M. McGlone CSJ

Today’s Gospel brings us back to the table of the Last Supper. As John organized his Gospel, the Last Supper, from the washing of the feet to the final prayer (13:1-17:26) takes up five of the 21 chapters of the Gospel in which the only significant action was Jesus’ washing the feet of his disciples. All the rest is comprised of Jesus summarizing the essence of what he had taught about himself, his relationship to the Father and the life he offered the disciples.

As our selection opens, Jesus has told the disciples that he is going away, that Judas will betray him and Peter will deny him. Jesus’ next statement, our opening line, is “Do not let your heart be troubled.” This is perhaps the only place in the Gospel where Jesus tells the disciples not to imitate him. John has told us that Jesus had been “troubled” on various occasions: at the death of Lazarus (11:33), when he announced the coming of his hour (12:27), and when he spoke of being betrayed (13:21).

Because John has been so clear about Jesus being deeply troubled, he gives us the impression that Jesus is speaking from his own experience when he calls the disciples beyond their distress. When Jesus tells them not to be fearful he contrasts being troubled to having faith: they can be troubled or have faith, but not both. Fear springs from the assumption that you will be overpowered, trust is based on the confidence that God is with you even if you cannot imagine a good outcome. In calling for their trust, Jesus assures the disciples that they will never be alone. Yes, he is going away, but that doesn’t imply that he will be absent from them. That idea provides the lead-in to his talk about his Father’s house.

In the early part of the Gospel Jesus had berated the people who desecrated his “Father’s house” by making the temple a marketplace. He then declared that when they destroyed the temple, he would raise it up in three days, a statement John clarified by saying he was speaking of the temple of his body. Thus, in typical Johannine fashion, Jesus actually identified himself as the Father’s dwelling place, the person through whom the disciples would experience peace.

It will take a while for the disciples to understand what Jesus was telling them. From their day to our own the idea of “many dwelling places” has fired imaginations with many images. But if we hear this in the light of John’s patterns of thought we realize that Jesus was not talking about architecture but presence. Because he dwelt in the Father and the Father in him, his promise was that he was the way for his disciples to do the same. Their faith, their committed union with him would bring them into the same relationship with the Father that he himself enjoyed.

 Troubled Hearts

Father Michael K. Marsh

“Do not let your hearts be troubled,” Jesus says. “Do not let your hearts be troubled?” Are you kidding me? Is Jesus really serious about that? Does he know what is happening in our lives and our world? How can Jesus say that with a straight face when he was troubled at seeing Mary and the Jews weeping at the death of Lazarus (John 11:33), when he said that his own “soul is troubled” (John 12:27), and when St. John tells us that Jesus “was troubled in spirit” (John 13:21)? What is Jesus telling us? It’s not as if there is an on-off switch for troubled hearts. How do we begin to make sense of today’s gospel in a world whose heart is constantly troubled?

It’s not hard to understand why this text is so often used in a burial liturgy. Death troubles our hearts and we want to find some balance, stability, and harmony. This text, however, is about more than the
afterlife. It has something to say right here and right now. It speaks to the very circumstances that trouble our hearts today.

Think about times when you heart has been troubled. Maybe it is now. What does that feel like? We all experience it in our own ways but see if this sounds familiar: isolated, paralyzed, overwhelmed, powerless, off balance, out of control, disconnected, afraid, thoughts spinning in your head, no stability, despair, grief, tears, anger. Do you recognize any of those?

In the midst of a troubled heart the unspoken question is this: Will the center hold or is everything collapsing around us. Thomas and Philip are feeling the collapse. Much of the world is. Maybe you are too. Will the center hold? That’s our question.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.” Jesus recognizes that our hearts are troubled. He is not warning us about a future condition. He knows the troubling has already begun. He can see it in us because he’s experienced it within himself. He also knows that our lives and the world are not defined by or limited to what trouble.

What if not letting our hearts be troubled begins with looking into our hearts and seeing and naming what troubles? That means facing ourselves, our lives, our world. That may be the first and most difficult thing Jesus asks of us in today’s gospel. I don’t know about you but sometimes I don’t want to see. I don’t want to name. It’s too difficult and too painful. It’s takes me too close to the edge of the abyss and a free fall into a collapsing life and a collapsing world. “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Thomas speaks for us all. We’ve lost our center. How do we recenter? Where do we go when it seems everything is collapsing around us?

Here’s the paradox. Sometimes we have to lose our center in order to find it. I want to be clear about this. I’m not suggesting that God purposely de-centers us. De-centering happens. It’s a part of life. It’s a part of the human condition. Sometimes it comes out of circumstances we didn’t create or choose. Other times it is a consequence of our choices or actions. Regardless, Jesus says that is not a place to stay or a way to live. It is not the life he lives or offer us.

If your heart is troubled then it’s time to re-center. Re-centering doesn’t mean our hearts won’t be troubled. It doesn’t necessarily fix the problem, whatever it might be. It means that our lives are tethered to something greater than ourselves. It means that our hearts are held secure by the Divine Life and we are not free falling into the abyss. Jesus is reminding us that there is a center and it is not us. It is not America and her laws and constitution. It is not the church and her creeds and doctrines. It is not our success, accomplishments, position, or power. We do not have to be the center nor do we need to establish it. In fact, we can’t. Instead, we awaken to it. We already know the way to and the place of this center Jesus says.

“Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied,” Philip says to Jesus. He’s bought into the lie that the Father is apart from, outside of, and distant from himself. The center, however, is within. The Father’s house is within. The kingdom is within. Wherever you go, there is the center. Whatever you face, there is the center. Whoever you are, there is the center, Regardless of what troubles, there is the center. Wherever you are, there is the center. Not because you are the center, but because God is within.

In the language of today’s gospel the center is the Father’s house and there are many dwelling place in this house. In the Father’s house there is a dwelling place for every troubled heart. I am not talking about the after life, and I am not thinking of this as some sort of celestial dormitory for those who have enough right belief and right behavior. I am taking about the dwelling places as the ways God’s life intersects our own: mercy and forgiveness, justice, generosity, compassion, healing, love, beauty, wisdom, hope, courage, joy, intimacy. These are the dwelling places for troubled hearts, places of re-centering. Every time we live into and express the divine attributes in our way of being, with our words, or by our actions, we regain our center, restore balance, and take up residence in the Father’s house.

What in you today needs re-centering? “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.”