Are We There Yet?
Fifth Sunday of Easter (A) | Fr Martin Ganeri looks to the destination of the Christian’s journey, and considers the roadmap that shows us how to reach it.
When people want to make a journey by car these days to some place they have not been to before, they usually plug in a sat nav, tap in the postcode and then set off. All we have to do is to obey the instructions and turn right when we are told to, or turn left when we are told to. And eventually we are told, ‘You have reached your destination.’
However, relying on a sat nav to find our way leaves us blind both about what the way actually is and what our destination is like. We just follow the instructions we are given. And this is very different from how things used to be when we had to rely on roadmaps and on our own knowledge. In those days we studied the map beforehand and we could see the way ahead in front of our eyes laid out on the map itself. We also used to find out what the destination looked like, so that we could recognise it when we reached it. It still was not always easy to know how to find our way, but we had some knowledge about it, much more than we have when we rely on a sat nav.
Now, in the Gospel Christ tells his disciples that he is going to his Father’s house, where he will prepare a place for them also, going to heaven, which is their final destination. He tells them they know the way to get there. Yet, their puzzled reactions are like those who rely a sat nav, but then suddenly find themselves without it. They feel they have no idea about either where Christ is going or what the way there is. They feel blind and helpless.
Yet Christ reassures them that they do know the way and that they do know the destination to which they are heading. For he tells them, ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.’ Christ is the Way, because he is the truth and the life. He is the Truth as the authentic and full revelation of God, the Father. He has shown them the Father. And he is the Life, because he offers to them eternal life, that life which is a share in God’s own life, the life of the Father, given through the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Christ has revealed to us our destination and he is like a roadmap that shows us how to reach it. For it is in his own humanity, his own human actions and words that he has both travelled that road for us and given us an example to follow, so that we can find the way for ourselves. By his own death and resurrection he has put an end to death and made eternal life possible for everyone, travelling the road that leads directly to the Father. And in his life and teaching he offers us a sure guide for knowing how to live in the present, helped and enabled to do by the grace of the Holy Spirit, so that we can also be worthy of a place in the Father’s house.
Yet Christ, as the Way, the Truth and the Life is more than just a roadmap to the Father. Even the best roadmap is merely a means to get us to a destination. But Christ is also the destination. For he makes the Father visible to us in his own actions and teaching and he himself gives us the life of the Father through the gift of the Spirit. So, when we contemplate Christ’s actions and teaching, when we imitate the pattern he gives us and when, through the sacraments, we some to share in his death and resurrection, we also come to our destination in the present life. We already see the Father. And we experience eternal life in the here and now. Not fully, of course, but in part and in reality. The full bliss of a place in our Father’s house is something that awaits us after death, but in Christ and in our life in Christ we are, in part, already there.
Readings: Acts 6:1-7 | 1 Pt 2:4-9 | John 14:1-12
Photograph by Fr Lawrence Lew OP of Middle Meadow Walk, Edinburgh.