Offered by Father Matthew Dallman for the Parish of Tazewell County, on the Fifth Sunday Easter, Year A, 2017.
Near the end of Saint John’s Gospel, in the last verse of the twentieth chapter, we learn that what was written in this book was included so that we may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing we may have life in His Name. And this applies to all four of the Gospels, and all of the Epistles—that is to say, the entirety of the New Testament, all twenty-seven books. In other words, the purpose, as Saint John states it, is the building up of faith in those who in some sense already possess an experience of God however that experience might be named. And so having that experience, we might be better able to understand it through patient reflection on the biblical books. The Bible supports our experience of the divine mysteries of God, feeds our experience of Jesus and His saving grace, and draws us deeper into the divine mysteries. The words of the New Testament are intended as logs to throw on a fire that is already lit in our hearts.
This is always how the Church starting with the apostles and first disciples treated Holy Scripture. Already having an experience with Jesus, upon His death and resurrection, they went back to the Scriptures to find in them hints, clues, and directions toward understanding what their experiences had really been, and seeing their experiences in a greater depth of revelation than they had first realized. And in addition to looking again at the Scriptures, which for the early Church was what we today call the Old Testament, the Apostles and Disciples looked again at their experiences with Jesus Himself. They remembered His words; they remembered His actions. They began to interpret His words and actions in light of the Scriptures—thereby allowing themselves, through listening and surrender, to be led into the mysteries of Christ.
The term for that is mystagogy—a process of being led into the mysteries of God. Through mystagogy, we revisit our past experiences, listening to God as we do so, so that He might reveal to us a greater depth of meaning and significance, a depth that through its clarity gives light to our souls, a light that by its warmth heals us and helps us on our pilgrimage of faith. Indeed the more we are healed, the more we are able to be agents of reconciliation for others, and help in their healing.
Our Gospel today has us doing mystagogy, just as the first Christians did themselves during the first season of Easter. Just as they looked back at the Scriptures and at their experiences with Jesus for the three-years of his mature ministry, we are looking back at the words of Jesus so that we can find in them depth and light for our understanding of what it means for Jesus to have died, yet be alive and resurrected still with His wounds. And so let these words bounce around the rooms of your mind.
“In my Father’s house are many rooms.” Heaven is a place of immense hospitality, indeed the house of the very love that creates, loves, and keeps all of creation, all of existence. And Jesus has risen to the Right Hand of God to prepare a room for each and every one of those people that believe that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, and try to follow His steps, follow His example, indeed take on the mind of Christ in their day to day living. Brothers and sisters, what hope this gives us! God is waiting for us to love Him so that He might show His love for us still more!
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” I imagine this to be a statement Jesus had made many times as He dined and walked with the disciples. Jesus is the way—He is the road we walk, the race we run; there is no other road but Him. He is the truth: there is no other truth but Him: the truth of His words, the truth of His actions, the truth of His love for us, the truth of his life, death, resurrection, and ascension. And He is the life: there is no other kind of life to live that leads to eternal life except that which He lived and gave us as example. And what was His life but that which He laid down for others, giving Himself as fragrant offering and sacrifice to God?
He shares His life with us through the Sacraments, so that in seeking Him, we might find Him. And in finding Him, know Him. And in knowing Him, love Him. And in loving Him, loving all that He loves. And God loves everything He has made, for all that He has made is very good. Amen.