We began this year’s Lenten series looking at the Gospel of John, which this year appears in the Sunday Gospel readings during the next couple weeks of Lent. We began by learning about John’s seven “I Am” statements:
1. I am the gate (10:7, 9)
2. I am the good shepherd (10:11, 14)
3. I am the true vine (15:1-5)
4. I am the bread of life (6:35, 48)
5. I am the light of the world (8:12; 9:5)
6. I am the resurrection and the life (11:25)
7. I am the way, the truth, and the life (14:6)
Four weeks ago, we saw that I Am is God’s name (Exodus 3:14). Three weeks ago, we looked at how the Gospel of John makes it really clear that Jesus is God, and two weeks ago, we saw how each of these statements represents one of the seven ways in which Jesus is present in our lives, fulfilling all of our deepest longings. And last week we dove deep into the story of the Raising of Lazarus, when Jesus says to Martha, “I am the Resurrection and the Life.”
Now we are almost at Holy Week. We’ve traveled through this unprecedented season of Lent. It has been a Lent that has forced us to give up things we never intended. It has been a Lent that even non-Catholics have had to observe. It’s been a Lent that may last even after we’ve celebrated Easter Sunday.
And this is exactly why “I Am” matters. We can be the kind of Christian who thinks that Jesus was a good man and had some good teachings. We can even subscribe to the idea that He was a prophet or even “the Son of God”.
But what does all that mean?
The age-old argument against that kind of thinking is that either Jesus is who He says He is, or He is a crazy man or, worse, a liar. Jesus is more than just a good teacher and maybe a prophet because He said He was God.
I will ask again what I asked you last week: “Do you believe this?”
This is the kind of season when we can let ourselves be swept away by the worldly currents that sow fear, anxiety, division, and lies. Or we can hold on to the most important promise of them all: Jesus is God. God became a man, flesh and blood, just like you and I. He knows our fears and anxieties. He has experienced suffering and darkness. He has felt abandoned by God. He has been hungry and tired. If He were here on earth now, He would also have to practice social distancing.
But at the same time, not only does He show us the light, but He is the Light that dispels the darkness. Not only does He feed us, but He is the Bread of Life. Not only does He point the way, but He is the Way and the Truth. Not only does He lead us to the Father, but He is the Gate through which we must pass. Not only does He guide us and care for us, but He is the Good Shepherd. Not only does He helps us get connected, but He is the True Vine. Lastly, as we saw last week, not only does He bring us to life, but He is the Resurrection and the Life.
I can’t think of a better time to read or re-read the Gospel of John.
It is the book of life. In it John challenges us to see Jesus, not just as God and Saviour, but OUR God and Saviour. For John and for all Christians, Jesus is the son of God, the Christ, and believing in him will give us eternal life (see John 3:16). This is, after all, the reason John gives for writing his Gospel: “that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31).
What’s more, Jesus is not a distant God; He is YHWH, the personal God, the God who cares for us, nurtures us, and fulfills all our needs and deepest longings. He is the God who has been there from the beginning. Christ is not an afterthought, not a divine “rescue mission” to fix something that went wrong in the Garden of Eden. Christ was always the plan of God for the salvation of humanity.
What a comforting thought! Jesus says in the Gospel of Matthew, in my favourite Scripture passage, that He would always be with us, to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). To know also that, before the beginning of the age, He already was, is so comforting. What can we fear?
We believe that when we abide in Him, Christ is always present (abiding in us), and He is especially guaranteed to be present in all the Sacraments: as the one who, in Baptism welcomes us and invites us to belong and to abide in Him; the one who forgives our sins and sets us free in Reconciliation; the one who feeds and nurtures us in the Eucharist; the one who, in Confirmation, calls us to baptismal action and enables us through the Gifts of the Spirit to wade through the darkness; who calls us to serve, protect, guide, and teach in Holy Orders; who calls us to love and is the love in Marriage; and finally, in Anointing, the one who heals us and brings us into everlasting life; should be transformational.
This week, consider this:
What do you long for? What are your deepest longings?
Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Jesus is the God of life who seeks us. He is the way to the Father. We long to be with God yet are not able. Therefore God comes to be with us instead, to show us the way. He is the loving God who goes before us to pave the way, to prepare a place for us (John 14:2-3). He is the Truth that sets us free and gives us life.
Jesus fulfills our longing for Truth and our longing for life and to be alive. When we abide in Him, Jesus fulfills all our deepest longings: He is our comfort and our joy, the light in the darkness, the gateway to the Father. He is the life that destroys death and sets us free. He is our caregiver, the good shepherd, our healer, and our food. He is our rock, our strength, our fortress. He is Truth. He is YHWH.
Jesus, the Way, the Truth and the Life, wants us to respond to the calling to guide each other and help each other be alive and strive for the Truth always.
This fifth week of Lent, let’s go and do as He has done.
Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching: email@example.com