The Gregorian Institute Shield, composed of the crossed gold and silver keys of the Papal Insignia, an open book with the words 'Via Veritas Vita' ('The Way, the Truth, and the Life') written on its pages, three golden six-sided stars on a red banner, and a Germanic cross.

at BENEDICTINE COLLEGE

This Sunday: Jesus Is the Native, the Streetlight, and the CEO

 

“I am the way, the truth and the life,” says the Lord in this Sunday’s Gospel. “No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Jesus says these words to console his apostles after he tells them he will leave them for a while. He is going to die, and they are going to be scattered and confused — so they need to know who he really is. In the darkness of the 21st century, we need to know too.

“I am the way.”

A missionary priest once described being lost in the jungle surrounding his camp. He did not know how he would ever find his way back, and feared he would end up the prey of some wild animal, when a native whom he knew found him.

“Follow me,” he said, as he cut through the brush.

“Is this the way back?” asked the priest.

The native answered in broken English: “I am the way.”

This is the position we find ourselves in as we follow Jesus in the 21st century. We are in a thicket of confusing, tangled obstacles that obscure the right way. Jesus is not a guide who knows where we need to go to find the road: There is no road. He is the only way through the mess. Where he goes defines the right way. By staying close to him we will arrive safely to our destination.

Or, as St. Peter says in today’s Second Reading, “They stumble by disobeying the word, as is their destiny.”

 “I am the truth.”

Pope Benedict once remarked that through much of history, the worst aspect of incarceration has been darkness. Prisons were often built without windows, and often underground. They were often dungeons.

Imprisonment meant darkness — and, in a way, darkness meant imprisonment. Before high-power artificial lights, on a moonless night, you were stuck where you were unless you have a light of some kind.

Jesus’s “I am the truth” and his “I am the light of the world” express the same reality. “Whoever believes in me will not remain in darkness,” he has said, and “The truth will set you free.”

Our world is dark, but Jesus sheds his light, precisely through his Gospel and the teachings of his Church. But Jesus, says the second reading, has “Called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

“I am the Life”

So, Jesus is like the way through the jungle and the illumination in the world before electricity. What is he like in the 21st-century West?

He next says “I am the Life.” As St. Peter puts it in the Second Reason, we are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own.” We know what this means: We are “in Christ.” We are “the body of Christ.” We ask things “in his name.”

That is much like the situation we find ourselves in when we need to get things done in today’s corporate world. If you want something done, you can ask in your name — or in the boss’s name. People might not do what you want. They will definitely do what the CEO wants.

It’s the same in our mission as Christians. We need not rely on our own name — we are his royal priesthood. We can ask in Jesus’s name.

So, put it all together for the dark days ahead.

It is true that Jesus may disappear from sight for a while to us in the West — he won’t be as present in society and its institutions as he has been. But he remains more present to us than ever because he is the way out of the thickets, he is the wonderful light in the darkness and he is the name that opens doors for us.

Photo: Christa Rieger; Sacred Heart Statue, Raven Memorial Park, Benedictine College

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Tom Hoopes

Tom Hoopes is vice president of college relations at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. A former reporter in the Washington, D.C., area, he served as press secretary of U.S. House Ways & Means Chairman Bill Archer and then spent 10 years as executive editor of the National Catholic Register newspaper and Faith & Family magazine. He writes weekly for Catholic Vote, the National Catholic Register and Aleteia. His work frequently appears in Catholic publications such as Catholic Digest. He lives in Atchison, Kansas, with his wife, April, and nine children.