20May Friday in the Fourth Week of Easter

Acts 13:26ff. Paul explains how Jesus was put to death, but God raised him from the dead and exalts him as the Son.

John 14:1ff. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. I have a place there for you.

In My Father’s House

So long as we live on planet earth, we have not arrived at our final destiny, since “here we have no lasting city” (Heb 13:14). Our Scriptures declare that earth and even our entire solar system will one day disintegrate, but emphasize far more the ephemeral, short-lived, ever changing circumstances of our individual lives and of our society. We are always wayfarers on a journey, seeking and looking beyond where we are, following a hope. No sooner do we master the situation of being a child than we are growing into youth; just as soon as we grow out of the awkwardness of youth, we have passed the border into adulthood. “Here we have no lasting city.” We are always on the road.

This vision can be exciting for young people with good physical health, few responsibilities and with emotional expansiveness, to move on from one thing to another, from one person to another. Yet, for an older person, with commitments in marriage, religious life, priesthood and other careers, with a more settled disposition and less elastic spontaneity towards new directions, it is unsettling to be always on the way, always leaving something and someone behind for someone or something new.

Here we are consoled by the words of Jesus: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” Somehow or other, to be seeking is to be found, to be on the way is to have arrived. To be straining one’s eyes and hopes for Jesus means that we have already been found by him. He is attracting us before we feel inclined to look for him. The flower must be found by sunlight before it will turn toward the sun.

To be on the way means to be seeking Jesus. We are longing to follow his will for peace, forgiveness, justice and compassion ever more totally in our daily life. To be on the way toward more profound peace or toward more extensive forgiveness or toward justice that shares earth’s goodness with more and more of God’s family, a journey such as this brings more security and delight. Most of all, in each step forward we find Jesus closer to ourselves in his personal love and attraction.

Still other paths stretch out before us, leading us on “the way.” One of the most important of these exists in the Holy Scriptures. In today’s epistle Paul concludes his journey through the Hebrew Bible, beginning with the patriarchs and Moses and ending with John the Baptist, the herald of Jesus. The earlier part of this journey was traversed in yesterday’s reading. Today, in the latter part of the same speech at Pisidian Antioch, Paul hones in upon the congregation immediately before him.

First, we note how Paul swivels from the words of Scripture, inscribed upon a book or scroll, to those same words as spoken by the living God. All of Scripture, according to Paul, is to be read in the light of Jesus who gives the ultimate meaning to each statement. To go from words to a person, is to move from a clear statement to an unclear but forceful personal witness to those words. The process leads us from the intellect to the will, from mental work which divides and subdivides till it knows and controls, to a volitional and emotional response which is always much more difficult to grasp and still harder to control. Scripture then ought to become a springboard for contemplation, when in silent ecstasy we become lost in the wonder of Jesus’ love and in an understanding beyond clear ideas.

Paul wrote about this “experience [of Christ’s] … love which surpasses all knowledge” (Eph 3:19).

We are on “the way,” then, as we move from the words of Scripture to God or Jesus who speaks those words. We are also on “the way,” strangely enough, when human sin or ignorance forces us out of our well-ordered plans into a vast and fearful waste (the words used in Deuteronomy for the way of the exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land! (Deut 1:19; 2:7). At such times, we are not to respond with hate nor with frustration. And when we feel helpless victims of evil, we can again be on “the way” with Jesus. By such a strange turn of circumstances, God hopes to share Israel’s covenant with all the world. We too may be led thereby to share our best with many others, for the enrichment of all. That best is Jesus.

First Reading: Acts 13:26-33

“My brothers, you descendants of Abraham’s family, and others who fear God, to us the message of this salvation has been sent. Because the residents of Jerusalem and their leaders did not recognize him or understand the words of the prophets that are read every sabbath, they fulfilled those words by condemning him. Even though they found no cause for a sentence of death, they asked Pilate to have him killed. When they had carried out everything that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead; and for many days he appeared to those who came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, and they are now his witnesses to the people. And we bring you the good news that what God promised to our ancestors he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising Jesus; as also it is written in the second Psalm, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you.’

Gospel: John 14:1-6

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”