Hodegetria – “She who points the Way” Berlinghiero Berlinghieri
Jesus: Way of Charity, Word of Truth, Food for Life
Paris, May 16, 2014 (Zenit.org) Monsignor Francesco Follo
1 ) Nothing shall upset you
1 Let’s think of and let’s recite often this beautiful prayer of St. Teresa of Avila: ” Let nothing disturb you, Let nothing frighten you, all things are passing away: God never changes. Patience obtains all things. Whoever has God lacks nothing. God alone suffices! Your desire is to see God; your fear to lose Him; your pain not to own Him; your joy may be what can bring you to Him and you will live in a great Peace. ”
During Holy Week we contemplated the pastoral charity of Christ that was revealed during the Last Supper with two gestures that express the meaning of his life and of his death: the act of washing the feet – a sign of putting his life at service to others – and that one of giving a morsel of bread to Judah that reveals His love to the extreme.
He gave himself to the one who betrayed him and delivered Himself to the cross for the sinners, for every one of us. The death on the Cross is the way Jesus opens the way to our Father. This is how Jesus reveals his glory of absolute love that gives itself unreservedly and without limits.
The speech of Jesus, which the liturgy of this Sunday proposes to us (Jn 14, 1-12), opens with an invitation to overcome fear: “Do not let your heart be troubled. ” It is a deep fear that has taken the hearts of the Apostles in the Cenacle: the fear of suffering, of death and of the future. Jesus suggests that there is only one way to overcome the many and deep fears that beset us. It is that of faith in God and faith in Him. He suffices, only God is the rock on which to build life, He alone is the safe haven. The other safeties disappoint. The love of God is faithful and never abandons us: this is the great certainty that comforts the believer.
At Easter this certainty will dwell in the Apostles including St. Thomas.
This Apostle, who was willing to believe only if he saw, in the picture of the Last Supper was painted by Leonardo da Vinci with the finger up to the sky because that finger has indeed touched the sky. It has touched the concrete love of God who gives His life for him. In fact, in the Gospel of John, Thomas represents the transition from unbelief to faith as an experience of love in which to believe and to trust.
This Apostle, who today is still scared and upset, asks the Messiah “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I AM the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my Father. From now on you do know him and have seen him. “(John 14: 5-7)
The answer given by Jesus to Thomas will make him understand which the way is but not immediately. Thomas now does not understand, he will understand when – meeting the Risen Jesus – he puts his finger in the holes of the divine pierced hands and sees which is the way, what is the truth, what is the life and indicates it to the others, including us.
Jesus’ answer to Thomas is first of all “I -AM” that is the name by which God revealed himself to Moses. In the Gospel of St. John it is the way in which Jesus speaks of himself and says “I-AM” absolutely and ” I-Am” with specifications. Today it gives the three basic “the Way, the Truth and the Life”. At other times He said I- AM the Bread, I- AM the Shepherd, I-AM the door.
2) I- AM the way, the road to get home, to God, to the heart, to others.
Last Sunday we meditated on Christ, who says of himself: “I AM the Door; I AM the Shepherd”, today he says about himself: “I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life. ”
First, Jesus Christ is the Way.
What is the way? The road was almost always a reference to the home: it is where you are when you leave home or when you come back. Jesus is the way because the Son, who was with the Father, came to us and returned to the Father showing us the way to our house, where we are at home.
The whole earthly life of Jesus is a journey back to the Father, therefore he is the way. In Jewish tradition the way is the law that starts life, the life of God. The new law is Jesus the Son, but the law of the Son is no longer something or someone that ties, his is the law of freedom: the freedom of the Son, who is the way because he is the truth that sets us free. It is a freedom that is able to give freely life as an offer of communion.
Only Christ is the way to the realization of the deepest desires of the human heart, and Christ does not save us in spite of our humanity, but through it, taking into account also our fear and our uneasiness. And while recognizing that our life is a struggle, he teaches us that life is a battle for the good, for the truth known not with the mind but met in Christ who embraces us from the Cross, feeds us
with the Eucharist, and forgives us in the sacrament of Confession. He does not say to each of us: “Strive to seek the way to reach the truth and the life; you have not been told this. Lazy, get up! The way itself is coming to you and shook you from sleep; and if it has able to shake you, get up and walk! “(St. Augustine of Hippo) He is the way of love accomplished, He is the way of washing the feet, He is the way of the morsel given to Judah, He is the way of the gift, He is the way of forgiveness, He is the only way, that one of love that makes us be with him and like him .
Secondly, Jesus says: I AM the truth. He is the Way because He is the truth that makes us free and allows us to live. The truth is that God is our Father and we are his children in the Son. Jesus revealed the Father as love and freedom and absolute gift to the Son. This is the truth.
Our truth is the truth of God who is our Father and loves us so infinitely to give His Son for us. This makes us understand our infinite dignity. Then Jesus is the truth and reveals to us the great dignity of God and of man. How has He revealed this truth? Becoming our brother. And that is why He is life.
Finally, let us ask ourselves: “What is Life?” It is the love between the Father and the Son; it is the life of God. Let also ask ourselves what is a man alive? It is the one that knows how to love and to give life. And Jesus gave us life, the life of God; He has given us the love of God as our life.
Only with the encounter with the risen Christ the disciples understood that He IS the way, and that His offered love is the way, that His love IS the “embodied truth ” (Florenski), that His love IS the life.
Why does Jesus say these words at the Last Supper? To make it clear to his disciples that they should not be distressed by the fact that he leaves and goes away dying infamously. Just going away He becomes the way, the truth and the life and gives meaning to our journey because we all walk and we’ll go away. However our leave and our return to our home will be in the way of truth and life.
The Truth that is Christ unites us to the life of love of God, who welcomes us as a merciful Father.
One way to follow the Way is offered to us by the consecrated Virgins. These women walk the path of holiness, keeping their eyes fixed on Jesus and putting themselves at the service of the Church and of the world as in the model proposed for the homily in the rite of the Roman Pontifical Consecration of Virgins. The Bishop says: “Remember that you are connected to the service of the Church and the brethren: therefore, exercising your apostolate in the Church and in the world, in the spiritual and material order, let your light shine before men that they may glorify our Father who is in heaven, and his plan of unite all things in Christ be fulfilled ” (RCV, n 29).
The virginal consecration grows in these women a constant attitude of discipleship to Christ, Shepherd and Spouse. It grows also confidence in the world, in humanity and a way of listening to the history as well as to the human problems. These women, by habits of work and life, are united to every man and woman for whom they become traveling companions, mean of communion and witness of love. Even when in the course of their existence the consecrated Virgins go through suffering, illness and inactivity, they experience and witness the union with the Lord. They participate in the creative work of
God through the work that allows them to provide for themselves and to be open to the sharing of goods.
From “Exposition of John”
St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church (Chapter 14 , lect . 2 )
The way, as has been said, is Christ himself; so he says, I am the way. This is indeed true, for it is through him that we have access to the Father. Because this way is not separated from its destination but united to it, he adds, and the truth, and the life. So Christ is at once both the way and the destination. He is the way by reason of his human nature and the destination because of his divinity. Therefore, as human, he says, I am the way; as God, he adds, and the truth, and the life. These last two appropriately indicate the destination of the way. For the destination of this way is the end of human desire. Now human beings especially desire two things: first a knowledge of the truth, and this is characteristic of them; secondly, that they continue to exist, and this is common to all things. In fact, Christ is the way to arrive at the knowledge of the truth, while still being the truth itself: “Teach me thy way O Lord that I may walk in thy truth” (Ps 85:11). Christ is also the way to arrive at life, while still being life itself: “Thou couldst show me the path of life” (Ps 16:11). And so he indicated the destination or end of this way as truth and life. These two were already applied to Christ: first, he is life: “In him was life” (1:4); then, he is truth, because “the life is the light of men” (1:45), and light is truth.
If you ask where to go, cling to Christ, for he is the truth which we desire to reach: “My mouth will utter truth” (Prv 8:7). If you ask where to remain, remain in Christ because he is the life: “He who finds me finds life and shall have salvation from the Lord” [Prv 8:35]
If then, you ask which way to go, accept Christ, for he is the way: “This is the way, walk in it” (Is 30:21). And Augustine says: “Walk like this human being and you will come to God. It is better to limp along on the way than to walk briskly off the way.” For one who limps on the way, even though he makes just a little progress, is approaching his destination; but if one walks off the way, the faster he goes the further he gets from his destination.
Therefore, cling to Christ if you wish to be secure, for you cannot get off the road because he is the way. And so those who hold on to him are not walking off the road but on the right road. Again, those who hold on to Christ cannot be deceived, because he is the truth and teaches all truth: “For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth” (18:37). Further, they cannot be troubled, because he is the life and the giver of life: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.