“Contradictions, sickness, scruples, spiritual aridity, and all the inner and outward torments are the chisel with which God carves his statues for paradise.” – St. Alphonsus Ligouri
John 14:1-12: ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God still, and trust in me. There are many rooms in my Father’s house; if there were not, I should have told you. I am going now to prepare a place for you, and after I have gone and prepared you a place, I shall return to take you with me; so that where I am you may be too. You know the way to the place where I am going.’ Thomas said, ‘Lord, we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way?’ Jesus said: ‘I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you know me, you know my Father too. From this moment you know him and have seen him.’ Philip said, ‘Lord, let us see the Father and then we shall be satisfied’. ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip,’ said Jesus to him ‘and you still do not know me? ‘To have seen me is to have seen the Father, so how can you say, Let us see the Father? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak as from myself: it is the Father, living in me, who is doing this work. You must believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; believe it on the evidence of this work, if for no other reason. I tell you most solemnly, whoever believes in me will perform the same works as I do myself, he will perform even greater works, because I am going to the Father.’
Christ the Lord Christ is not Lord just because he is more intelligent than anyone else, or more charismatic, or more ruthless, or filled with magic powers. Christ is Lord because he is God become man. To see him is to see God; he is in the Father and the Father is in him. But seeing him requires more than bodily eyes; it requires faith. Philip had followed Christ for almost three years, and he still did not recognize him. How many Catholics have been going to Mass for years but still do not know the Lord? If we look at Christ and find it hard to see the Father, it is our eyes – our lives – that need adjusting, not him.
If we do adjust them, trusting more in Jesus and less in our own limited understanding and talent, our lives will gradually take on proportions far beyond what we can imagine: “Whoever believes in me will perform the same works as I do myself, he will perform even greater works.” To live in a communion of friendship and obedience with Christ is to live united to God himself, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe, the Lord of life and history. His knowledge and power and love become ours; we become sharers in the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). The lives of the saints, past and present, continue to cry out their confirmation of this promise. They are our brothers and sisters who, under the impulse of God’s grace, have relinquished their vain attempts at controlling their destiny and the world and truly believed in Christ, trusting that he, the only Lord, knows better and that his plans, his will, are better than theirs.
Too often we relegate our relationship with the Lord to one section of our agenda. Christ’s presence and will should be much, much more for us. He should be everything. As Christians, our life is a mission. We are called to be other Christs in the world – in the specific circumstances, relationships, and possibilities of our own personal worlds. If our first concern is truly to live as Christ would live in our place, we will release the full power of grace in our lives, and we will become saints. If following the Lord is just one action item among many, grace will have no room to work.
Christ the Teacher From ancient times philosophers have summed up the human condition as a quest to answer three fundamental queries: What should I do? What can I know? What can I hope for? Jesus Christ answers them all, not merely with doctrine, but with his very person. “I am the way” can translate into: What should you do? Follow me! Do what I have done. “I am the truth” means: What can you know? You can know everything, if only you know me. Knowing me, you know the truth; you know the secret behind the workings of the whole universe and the yearnings of the human heart. “I am the life” means: What can you hope for? In me, through me, you can hope for and expect the fullness of life that you long for, even though you may not be able to put that longing into words. Christ is truly the living water that quenches every thirst. He is truly the light that scatters every kind of darkness. The quest of every man and woman to satisfy the heart’s deepest needs is the quest to seek his face, and it leads either to Christ and the place he has prepared for us in heaven or to a dead end.
Christ the Friend The atmosphere of the Last Supper was tense. The apostles knew that something was up, and they were afraid, or at least disquieted. Jesus reassures them by inviting them to believe in him, to trust in him. He goes to prepare a place for us in the Father’s house, in heaven. And he promises to come back for us, so that he can take us where we will always be with him. Christianity is about entering into the family of God, becoming a member of that family. Jesus wants to dwell with us; he wants to dwell in us, and he longs to share his eternal and ever-new joy with us. This is why he came. He is the friend who “gave his life up for his friends.” With a friend like that, how could our hearts be troubled?
Mary: My child, Jesus tells you: “Do not let your hearts be troubled… Trust in me…” If he tells you that, it means that it is possible for you to live in his peace. He does not say that troubling things won’t happen – they will. But in him, if you exercise your trust in him, you can keep your heart in peace, like a little child in its mother’s arms. He always holds you in his sure embrace. When troubles come, bring your heart back to the sure knowledge of his love and his wise providence. It is a mark of all true followers of Christ that they have learned to be steady in the storm; they have learned to rejoice in the depths of their souls even in the midst of tears. He is worthy of your trust.
Christ in My Life Lord, you wanted to be known, and so you came to reveal yourself to us. I already know you; you have given me the gift of faith. I want to be for you what you were for the Father. When people see me, especially those closest to me, I want them to see you. Make me like you, Lord…
I believe in you, Lord, and I am so grateful to you. What thousands of people for thousands of years have been searching for, you have given me. You have given me the pearl of great price, the hidden treasure. I know the answers to the deepest questions because I know you. You are not just the endpoint of my search; you are the beginning of my adventure, my way, my truth, my life…
Mary, my mother, how can I trust in Jesus when everything is collapsing around me? How can I be at peace when my mind and heart are in turmoil? You can teach me. On this night of the Last Supper, you were close by. You knew that Jesus’ hour had come. Your mother’s heart quaked and shook and wept, and yet you never ceased trusting, accepting, or offering. Teach me to not be afraid…
PS: This is just one of 303 units of Fr. John’s fantastic book The Better Part.
Art for this post on John 14:1-12: Cover of The Better Part used with permission. The Last Sermon of Our Lord, James Tissot, between 1886 and 1894, PD-US author’s life plus 100 years or less, Wikimedia Commons.
About Fr. John Bartunek, LC
Fr. John Bartunek, LC, S.Th.D, received his BA in History from Stanford University in 1990. He comes from an evangelical Christian background and became a member of the Catholic Church in 1991. After college, he worked as a high school history teacher, drama director, and baseball coach. He then spent a year as a professional actor in Chicago before entering the religious Congregation of the Legionaries of Christ in 1993. He was ordained a Catholic priest in 2003 and earned his doctorate in moral theology in 2010. He provided spiritual support on the set of Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” while researching the 2005 Catholic best seller, “Inside the Passion”–the only authorized, behind-the-scene explanation of the film. Fr. John has contributed news commentary regarding religious issues on NBC, CNN, Fox, and the BBC. He also served as the English-language press liaison for the Vatican’s 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist. His most widely known book is called: “The Better Part: A Christ-Centered Resource for Personal Prayer”. His most recent books are “Spring Meditations”, “Seeking First the Kingdom: 30 Meditations on How to Love God with All Your Heart, Soul, Mind and Strength”, and “Answers: Catholic Advice for Your Spiritual Questions”. Fr. John currently splits his time between Michigan (where he continues his writing apostolate and serves as a confessor and spiritual director at the Queen of the Family Retreat Center) and Rome, where he teaches theology at Regina Apostolorum. His online, do-it-yourself retreats are available at RCSpirituality.org, and he answers questions about the spiritual life at SpiritualDirection.com.