A few years ago, I attended a funeral whose hobby was homing pigeons. It was very appropriate then that at the graveside his own pigeons were released. There was a lovely symbolism to it. As his treasured pigeons flew home, their master was making his own way back home to God. When these birds were released they flew straight up in the air and then went around in circles for a while before setting off in a certain direction. This circling around wasn’t mere show. They had to keep circling until they found their bearings. Once found, they set off home.
This homing instinct is truly amazing. How these creatures navigate to home across huge and disorienting distances is one of the marvels of nature. We too have a homing instinct. A governor of a prison once said: ‘If you were to give the prisoners a choice between going home or staying here in a luxury suite, complete with colour TV, a sauna, a cocktail cabinet, and so on, there isn’t a single prisoner who wouldn’t choose to go home.
Home is where one starts from and we all carry many memories — hopefully more happy than sad — of our early days on this earth. However, we have a deeper homing instinct and that is for God. We came from God and are on a journey back to God. It is this journey back to God that makes sense of all our comings and goings. As the poet Patrick Kavanagh once said: ‘only they who have flown home to God have flown at all.’ Yet we can shy away from this journey or put it on the back burner so to speak. When Jesus told the apostles that he was leaving them they were deeply distressed. But he consoled them with these lovely words: “There are many rooms in my Father’s house. I am going to prepare a place for you. I shall return to take you with me; so that where I am you may be too.”
These words mean that we have an eternal home to go to where all our hopes will be fulfilled. But there remains the question of how to get there. A GPS (Sat Nav) is a marvellous little gadget that will take us to any destination in the country but, when it comes to charting out the journey of our lives it is of no use whatsoever. We all like to know where we are going but it seems the future is uncharted territory. Like those homing birds, we seem to have a lot of circling to do before we find our direction. This is Thomas’ concern. “Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” In answer to that Jesus does not give him a whole lot of complicated directions. He simply says: “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me.” Let’s explore this answer a little.
Jesus is the way. The problem today is that there are too many ways and in today’s post-modern culture one way is as good as another. This is likely to leave us lost in a kind of labyrinth, walking back and forth the thousands of alluring paths suggested by the buzz words and fads of the moment. For Jesus, there is only one way. It is the way of humility, service and love. Jesus never went around asking, ‘what’s in this for me?’ He was a man for others and there was never a hint of egoism in his life. All he ever wanted to do was please his Father in all things. If we choose to follow in his footsteps then we must take to heart the dictum of St. Paul: ‘let this mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus. Then we can go forward, even in the face of many problems and difficulties, on a sure path that leads them to the Father. This is Jesus’ promise.
Jesus is the truth. We live in a world of many competing truth claims, as well as people who doubt the very existence of truth. Truth is not finally to be found in abstract notions or theories, but rather in the person of Jesus Christ, the unique Son of God and the living embodiment of truth. From this perspective, knowing truth depends on being in proper relationship to this one person who is divine truth. Jesus presents himself as the path that leads us close to that ultimate Mystery. Philip asked, ‘Lord, show us the Father and we shall be satisfied.’ Jesus himself is the truth that can open us up to God’s goodness. ‘Whoever has
Jesus is the life. To trust Jesus as the way and the truth is to allow him to really transform our lives. Jesus is not some far-off teacher who has left humanity with a legacy of admirable wisdom, rather he is a living being who from his own depths sows a seed of new life in us.
The fullness of Life in Jesus is found in proper relationship to the Father through the person of Jesus. This life is not simply an escape from the divine judgment of death and destruction. It is much more than this. It is participation in the very life of the triune through Jesus.
The new life that Jesus gives us is something like that of the apostles at Pentecost, where all fear and darkness was overcome by unbounded love, joy, peace and courage. They were full of enthusiasm which is an interesting word. Enthusiasm comes from en Theos meaning in God. They were participating in the life of God and God is love.
Today’s gospel passage begins with Jesus asking his disciples to have faith in him. It ends with the astounding statement that those who do so will accomplish even greater works than he did himself. I take this to mean that by a deep faith in Jesus as the way, the truth and the life, we allow ourselves to be channels of Jesus love. We allow Jesus to make his home in us and thereby find our true and lasting home in him.
Coming to know Jesus is a struggle and not unlike those homing birds circling around and around before finding the direction they must take. But once we have found Jesus, he will lead us on a sure path homeward bound to our heavenly Father.