In John's Gospel, when Jesus tells his disciples, I am the way and the truth and the life, is it surprising that they find these concepts a bit hard to grasp? Thomas certainly seems to: Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way? he asks. Thomas seems to be under the impression that Jesus will furnish all of the disciples with some kind of physical roadmap, so that they will be able to find him later on. And Philip wants to see God himself! Master, show us the Father, he says. Both of them fail to grasp the intangible truth that Jesus is trying to impart to them: I am the way… But what way?
Well, first of all, Jesus is the embodiment of the Father’s love: whoever has seen me has seen the Father, he tells them. Moreover, through his death and rising, Jesus gives us access to the Father: he is the way to God. But Jesus simultaneously comes to dwell in us so that we can be his body in the world, the embodiment of his presence, his hands and his breath and his feet: Remain in me, as I remain in you, he says. The implications of this truth are staggering when you really stop to think about it.
In 1 Peter, that body is likened to a spiritual house made of living stone – an edifice that is identified with Jesus, first and foremost, but one that is also made up of baptized Christians everywhere, bound heart and soul in community. Our royal priesthood is one of spiritual sacrifices for other, even when tensions rise, as they do in our reading from Acts. And when they do, they must be dealt with so that the work that is paramount can be accomplished: spreading the Good News, preaching and teaching, the ministry of the Word. And it is our trust in the Lord (Psalm 33) our God who remains involved with us and with our lives, that is essential to our existence as community, and to our identity as the Body of Christ, Christ’s body in the world, the living stone rejected by human beings, but chosen and precious in the sight of God.
Jesus is the life we seek, the way to God, if only we allow him to live in us, as he lives in God. This Sunday’s readings call us to open our lives to that way, so that we might bring Jesus’s truth and Jesus’s life to others as he brings life to us. That is what it means to be Church; that is what it means to be the Body -- the actual Body -- of Christ in the world.
This post is based on Fr. Pat's Scripture class.