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Commentary on 5th Easter Sunday (A), 7.05.2023
Commentary by Donagh O’Shea OP, www.goodnews.ie
Jesus said, “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. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.
“I go to prepare a place for you,” Jesus said. We should not think of it as a physical space, but inevitably we do: that is how our imaginations work. But we can free up the image a little, as St Teresa does with the ‘interior castle’. Eternal life does not mean being fixed as in amber; we will be alive in God, not dead in God. God is a God of the living, as Jesus said (Matthew 22:32).
“I am the Way,” he said. Not a physical path, nor a programme, but a person whom we know. We have seen him on his way: it is a way of forgiveness, love, hope, justice. No one can come to God by force or violence, by tricks or shortcuts….
“I am the Truth,” he said. The truth is not abstract, then; it is living with the eyes and mind and heart of this Friend. We cannot reach it simply by thinking, nor even by agonising about it; it is not a formula or a theory; it is word made flesh.
“I am the Life,” he said. Not just survival, nor half-life, but life to the full. Not a question endlessly deferred, but life here, now, within our grasp.
“Lord, show us the Father,” said Philip. His request echoed that of Moses, who said to God, “Show me your glory” (Exodus 33:18). He believed that Jesus was capable of organising an experience for them such as that of Moses or Isaiah. There was daring in the question: God had replied to Moses’ request, “You cannot see my face; for no one shall see me and live” (Exodus 33:20). His reply to Philip has shaped Christian awareness of Jesus’ identity, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father…. I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (see also John 10:38). He does not simply represent the Father, he presents him. His words and actions have the Father as their source.
“The one who believes in me will also do the works that I do.” His works have the Father as their source; so a disciple’s works too have the Father as their source.