It seems like ages since we’ve been in class together and discussed the last chapter in the Gospel of John, but our class will resume next Tuesday, January 6 with our discussion and insights on Chapter 14. Franciene and I hope that you all are continuing to enjoy this beautiful Christmas season, and are feeling refreshed from our short vacation.
Chapter 14 is so rich, and contains so much that is so integral to our faith. When Jesus says in 14:6 “I am the way, and the truth, and the life”, His disciples still had questions for Him. And since they did not fully understand what He was telling them, Jesus later said in verse 27 “Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. You heard Me say to you ‘I go away, and I will come to you.'” He reminds us that the Holy Spirit will be present within the Church as a whole, and also personally present within each of God’s children individually. A footnote in my Bible says “For this reason, both the universal Church and individual Christians can be called “temples” of the Spirit.” What a comfort and an unmerited honor this is!
I think that what struck me most in this chapter, is that statement by Jesus saying that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. There is a quote in our workbook on page 123 by Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical “Veritatis Splendor”, from 1993 that says:
“It is urgent to discover and set forth once more the authentic reality of the Christian faith, which is not simply a set of propositions to be accepted with intellectual assent. Rather, faith is a lived knowledge of Christ, a living remembrance of His commandments, and a truth to be lived out. A word, in any event, is not truly received until it passes into action, until it is put into practice. Faith is a decision involving one’s whole existence. It is an encounter, a dialogue, a communion of love and of life between the believer and Jesus Christ, the Way, and the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). It entails an act of trusting abandonment to Christ, which enables us to live as He lived (Galatians 2:20), in profound love of God and of our brothers and sisters.”
Have you had this experience in your own faith life? I know that I was brought up in the Catholic faith, and I remember being taught the basic foundation of our faith, and being interested in learning and understanding it. But I can certainly remember times when that was really that “intellectual assent”–the important truths may not have made the important and necessary descent from my head into my heart. I can remember times in my life when that journey was successful and my heart had pondered and understood something about our faith, that my head had only “agreed” to, without fully understanding. I think it’s so important what Saint John Paul II wrote about the necessity of that understanding being put into lived practice–a “decision involving one’s whole existence”. That really changes everything–it is as if a light comes on that shows us the path we are called to walk, and we understand that we want to walk it to meet our Merciful God.
Did you have some kind of an “encounter” with God that personally helped you understand or decide to grow in your faith? I think that so often we need an individual experience of God in our lives–whether it is a joyful or a difficult experience–to help us to internalize and act upon our faith. It’s as though the ground of our souls is tilled by our study and learning, and then when God decides the time is right, He comes Himself to sow the seeds of our true understanding, and from this understanding comes our response of love for Him. And I think that that response is what changes our lives.
As always, there is so much for us to learn and discuss in these chapters, and we look forward to seeing you all on Tuesday. Please feel free to contact Franciene or I if you have any questions or comments.
You all are in our prayers,