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May 14, 2017

Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year A

This Sunday’s gospel is the overture of a long speech: the one which Jesus delivers to his disciples in the evening, at his Last Supper with them. We are at the opening verses of John 14. The preceding chapter, which narrated Jesus’ gesture of washing his disciples’ feet, had ended with the Lord’s foretelling of Peter’s denial, whereas the bleak shadow of the upcoming betrayal, by one of his apostles, weighed heavily on all. Besides, Jesus explicitly said that he would be with them for a little while only (Jn 13: 33). His “hour” had come.

No wonder, then, that Jesus sought to comfort his disciples: this evening, they had only reasons for discomfort. The words of Thomas and Philip echo this sadness. They simply repeat their lack of understanding: “We do not know… How can we…” (Jn 13: 5)? Also their request “Show us the Father” expresses their burning feeling of the lack of what is essential, what is life-giving!

Therefore, in today’s gospel, Jesus repeats three times his exhortation to have confidence: in the Father and in Himself (Jn 13: 1, 11). Although there was every reason for discouragement, yet, Jesus requests his disciples to continue their trust in him. However, they ask themselves, “why should we?’

Last Sunday, we heard Jesus comparing himself to a door or a gate. We had said that the communication between these two worlds, that of man and that of God, was something new and plausible. Today, we take a further step: we can have confidence because Jesus will pass from this world to the Father, thus opening for us the door. But he will not go alone: once gone, once the door opens again, Jesus will come back and take us with him to where he is.

He does go alone, for now, because alone he can defeat death and live this all loving and obedient offering that opens the door again. But he returns. And this return of His becomes the way, and opens the path for us.  By going and returning for the purpose of taking us with him, Jesus becomes the Way.

In John’s Gospel, we find several self-assertions from Jesus: he defines himself as water, bread, life, light, resurrection… Each of the assertions of identity is relative to the context and to the people Jesus is addressing.

Here, Jesus is greeting his disciples, when it would have been easy for them to fall in the temptation of thinking that all was over and meaningless!

On the contrary, Jesus tells them that everything is actually starting. The Son of Man is being glorified. Because of this transition, a way is opened to man. Rather, the way is opened, which is truth and life.

It is important to hold together the three expressions: way, truth and life.

Jesus is not only life: if it were so, and if we did not know how to enter this life so as to live from him, his life would have been of no use to us.

If he were the truth, if he were something to know, we would be able to know many things about God, but we would be alone.

And if he were merely a way, if life were not the goal, we would be anyway lost persons, wandering endlessly, exhausted. And the numerous rooms of the Father’s house would remain empty.

But Jesus is all these three realities, together.

He is life eternal, full, which death did not defeat. This is why, his is true life and entirely corresponding to the eternal plan of God. It is also a possibility, a freedom, a choice, a way. We may walk towards it and in it we may grow.

For this, we can really have confidence.

Then Jesus leaves his disciples, but not without revealing to them this mystery, this truth through which the way of life is given to us. We may start to walk in the way.

Where to? To which life?

Jesus does not accept that we direct ourselves anywhere else than where he is (Jn 17: 24), that is in the Father. This is the place that he prepares for us, granting us to dwell in the same relationship as he has with his Father.

This is why, it is important that Jesus said: “Whoever sees me, sees the Father” (Jn 14: 9). We are called to live there, so that whoever sees the Son sees the Father.

Jesus is totally in relation with the Father. He is and has nothing else outside this love, the big love of his life. So, whoever looks at him, does not see just him, because he is in union with the Father. Whoever sees him cannot help but see him in union with the Father. Jesus does not restrict the look of his disciples to himself but projects them to the fountain of his existence: looking at the Father, they too may be attracted to live in that manner, opening themselves to this gift.

Thus, it is possible to be one, in love. This is our call.

This call becomes our history, if we walk in Christ, if we let him be our way, and that his Passover be the way on which we walk.

+ Pierbattista

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