Show us the Way!

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5th Sunday in Easter

Show us the Way!

        Grace, Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father and His only Son, Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.

        If I had a nickel for every time I heard the phrase, ‘You look just like your father’, I would probably have over five dollars. I happened to be a spitting image, as they say, of my father. With the advances in genetic research, scientists are able to predict the probability of a child’s eye color, hair color and even physiological attributes from the aspects of the parents D.N.A.

       Maybe some of you have had similar experiences in your families. We often comment on a newborn’s features saying, ‘Oh, she has her mother’s eyes.’ Or, ‘He has his father’s nose.’ Sometimes we even see other relative’s features from another generation and say something like, ‘She looks just like great-aunt Ethyl.’ Since we are made from the mutual genetic material of our parents, it does make sense that we are images of our mothers and fathers.

        Yet even if a person were an identical copy of their progenitors, or even part of an identical set of twins, that person would still be unique. Two people could in no way live life and experience the exact same emotions or visions, and they could not react or process their experiences in the exact same way.

        It simply could not be done. Seeing the same sunrise would not evoke same feelings. The light from the sun would strike the retinas of each individual from different angles. The very air each person breathed would consist of randomly different particles. Both individuals would have to co-exist in the same space at the same time in order to truly be the same.

        It is because we are each unique that we have difficulty in communicating our thoughts to one another. We each render the words we hear from others differently according to our own perceptions and imagination. For instance; when I say the word – ‘Camel’, a picture forms in your minds of what you imagine a camel to look like.

        Some may have actually seen such a creature in real life, such as at a zoo. Some may only have seen a photograph while some have only experienced a depiction of the animal in a painting or drawing. Some of you may even have envisioned an old advertising for Camel cigarettes. The point is, that unless we could somehow telepathically transfer the exact image of what we were thinking into another person’s mind, no two images will ever be the same.

        This is why communication breaks down. It is why misunderstandings happen. So much of our personal emotions, culture and [our individual history], muddy the waters of what we say and how we perceive what has been said. Has someone ever said to you, “It’s not what you said, it’s how you said it.”? Subtle nuance in sound and pitch can change the entire picture we are trying to convey.

        Now since this is not a lecture on linguistics or Etymology, I will get to the point. In last week’s Gospel reading of John 10:9 Jesus says, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.” He continues in verse 15; “just as the Father knows me and I know the Father— I lay down my life for the sheep.” The Pharisees who were hearing this were astonished and did not believe what they were hearing. They said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?” [John 10:20]

        This Sunday’s narrative in the Gospel of John, takes place in the upper room before Christ’s crucifixion. Jesus tells his disciples that he will soon leave them in order to fill his Father’s command to lay down his life for the redemption of His creation. He tells them that he will be going to his Father’s house to prepare a place for them.

        Knowing that they will be distraught, he assures them that they know the way. “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” Philip hangs on to this, clings to this, he says, “…show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” And what is Jesus’ reply? “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father”

        Jesus is telling his disciples that he is the same as our Father in heaven. Not a simple image. Not a mere representation of the Almighty, but that they are the same. For Jesus is God. He is of the same substance with the Father by whom all things were made, not a copy with imperfections, nor partially God with half human DNA.

        The Father is in him and he is in the Father. Their thoughts are the same, they experience everything together existing in the same place at the same time. What the Father sees, the Son sees, the miracles Jesus does for humanity is the right hand of God. Jesus Christ has all the authority of the Father in heaven because they are one and the same. “The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his works.”[Jn 14:10]

        Like Phillip, we may have a difficult time understanding this because we are human. As human beings, we are born to sin. This means we are lost and condemned creatures and we can in no way save ourselves or come to the Father. Our wisdom is foolishness before God because He is purely Holy and Righteous. It is our fallen state of sinfulness which prevents us from seeing Christ as he truly is.

        No wonder the disciples are worried; and we should be too! Without Christ there is no access to the Father. Without the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, where he carried all the past, present and future sins of the world, we would be lost. We would not know the way.

        When we put our faith in our own actions, we are doomed to fail. We are like a drowning man who flails about in the overpowering current of sin.

        I am sure we have all experienced the terror and despair of being lost forever in the depths of this evil world. We struggle against the tide of depravity. We choke on the foul and caustic foam of hate and injustice. It seems that when we come up for air we are only pushed down again by the hands of our fellow human beings.

        We have nothing to grab onto in order to pull ourselves out of the depths. We can only be saved by the external power of the Lord. It is His hand that reaches down into the dark ocean of our transgressions, grabs us by the scruff of our necks, and lifts us up into the light of eternal life.

        As followers of Christ, we have hope. In fact we have more than hope, we have the guarantee of our salvation. God himself became incarnate, he was made man. By his resurrection from the grave he has defeated death itself. And not only that, by this saving work of Christ Jesus, we are snatched from that certain death, brushed off, cleansed of all sin, and made holy before God. We are then welcomed into His home in heaven. “If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” [Jn 14:2] says Jesus.

        In the words of King David in Psalm 118:23-24 -

        This was the Lord’s doing;

        It is marvelous in our eyes.

        This is the day the Lord has made;

        We will rejoice and be glad in it.

“[T]hese [words] are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” [Jn 20:31]

        What a glorious and powerful name is this name, Jesus Christ. In him is all the power and authority of our Father in heaven. We no longer need to cower in fear from the evil and sin of this world. We no longer are under the judgment of death.

        Yes, it is true that we, for a little while, must suffer the slings and arrows of the evil one. But we are not alone. We are not lost. We know the Way who is Jesus Christ. We know the Truth, and we know the Life. Our temporary lives in this earthly realm are not our inheritance nor is this world our final resting place. We know that He will come again and take us to His kingdom where we will be with Him forever.

        In the meantime, we have been promised that when we call upon His name, He will do what we ask of Him. I recommend that you do not bog yourself down with intricate language to try to communicate your thoughts and pleas. God knows what you are thinking. What you see in your mind is completely and entirely understood by Him.

        He sees through your self-serving demands to what you really need. Simply ask, “Save me”, and let God work out the details of your rescue. Simply ask, “Help me”, and let God provide for you all your earthly needs.

        By His grace, you gain eternal life. As St. Peter tells us, “Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” [1 Pe 2:10]

        You were and now are, you had not received, but now you have received. Did you notice that? Past tense! It has already been done! You are now His own possession, His chosen people, a holy nation. He has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. [1 Pe 2:9b]

        This was the Lord’s doing;

        It is marvelous in our eyes.

        This is the day the Lord has made;

        We will rejoice and be glad in it.

[Psalm 118:23-24]