Summary: Goal: That the hearer may know the Way, Christ, and participate in the holy priesthood of all believers. Malady: We don’t know the Way and when we find out what the way is, we reject it. Means: Christ speaks to us in his word that we are already made
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; the Holy Three In One, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
Ever since April 2nd, 2005, our television sets, newspapers, and Internet pages have been filled with news concerning the death of John Paul the Second. We have seen the throngs of people outside his former residence in the Vatican Palace. We have seen the procession of his body from the palace to St. Peter’s Basilica. We have seen the mass held after his death. We have seen his funeral. We have seen the news clippings, the bits and bites of sound and image. We have heard from and seen those in the Catholic community, from believers, from dedicated priests, laymen and bishops.
We have seen television programs recapping 84-year life of Karol Wojtyla (John Paul II’s given name). We have heard of him spoken of in conjunction to Ronald Reagan, to St. Peter, to the great and faithful throughout the ages. We have heard him called “John Paul the Great” and “the people’s Pope”. We have seen the duration of this papacy with its ups and downs, its scandals and its banners of pride.
But the most striking images and sound bites come from those throngs of people outside the Vatican. They speak of loss. They speak of heartache. They speak with the same seeming insecurity, as Karol must have felt as a young man losing his mother, and then his brother, and then his father before the age of 20. They speak of being orphaned now that this man, who they call “il papa”, is gone.
In our text for this morning, Jesus is setting the disciples up for something very much like what has happened in Rome. “Let not your hearts be troubled . . . and I go to prepare a place for you.” He forewarns the disciples who have followed him through this His turbulent and exciting ministry. I’m going to leave you now. He says, “I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” But these words of preparing a place seem to offer little consolation to this small flock that can no longer escape the realization that it is written, ’I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’
The disciples, as usual, don’t seem to get the entire story. They are left feeling afraid, even abandoned by their Lord. Surely they must have been asking themselves how things were going to go on without their leader, their Holy Father, their Lord. They don’t know where He’s going and they’re not sure they know this way that He’s talking about to get back to Him.
Two disciples confront us, Thomas and Philip, giving words to their insecurity.
Thomas seems to cry aloud out of his confusion, “Lord, we do not know where you are going, How can we know the way?”
We echo Thomas’ words in our own ways. We look at our surroundings and we see the death in the world. We see the assaults of the sinful world upon our Christian faith. We see a great churchman struggle to even utter the words of God. We see a helpless woman struggle through brain function loss and starvation. We see all of this and we wonder in ourselves if there truly is a rhyme or reason to this struggling, strife, and striving. We wonder if the words of our Lord are true. We see the loss of having him around and ask, “how can we know the way without you here?,” and we ask, “how can THIS be the way?”
Jesus responds gently but firmly, I am the way, the true way, and the way to life. There are great things beyond this coil. There are magnificent rooms. There is the Father.
Philip exclaims “Show us the Father! And that will be enough for us!”
Philip doesn’t want to know a way, he just wants to get to the end. There are times that we too would like to just get to the end. We do not want to be pressured into living our faith outside of this sanctuary. It’s too hard. It’s too much suffering. We could be rejected. We could be hurt. We do not want the bloody cross of Christ, we want a happy plastic Jesus. We do not want to take up that cross and deny ourselves. We want to sit placid in front of our television sets and computer screens, not denying ourselves, but denying everything - everything but ourselves.
John Paul the Second believed differently than we do about some things. John Paul the Second erred when he made some decisions. But what John Paul knew was that there is a Way. That way is a complete trusting faith in Christ which fills you with love, with courage, with power to do things that you could never do without Christ filling you. He knew that Way was pock marked with evil people and evil things and evil actions because this world is full of our sin. But He knew that Christ came to save us from that Sin, from our sin.