It’s common for someone to say, “I know the way”, but if you asked someone, “I don’t know the way,” who would respond with “I am the Way”. Only Jesus can say this because he himself is the way. But it’s the way to what? It is the way to the Father and to his Father’s house, where Jesus will prepare a place for us. Jesus doesn’t just teach people the way to God. He doesn’t just give an example of the right way to live. He doesn’t just come along as a guide along the way. Jesus does all of these and more.
You would think the early Christians would be able to grasp Jesus’ meaning of “I am the way, and the truth, and the life”. Part of understanding the whole experience of the resurrection of Jesus is to see the apostles and those who came after them learning bit by bit the meaning of the event and what it says to them about Jesus. This whole process took time.
Paul tells us there were disputes and rivalries among the early believers. But as time stretched into centuries, the words would stand as an abiding promise of unity in such diversity. Even today, we may not be able to grasp Jesus’ call to salvation clearly, for there seems to be many paths. We benefit from more than 2000 years of reflection, but we still must tell the story ourselves. On our own, we will not be able to find a way to express Jesus’ call fully. But that is not ours to worry about because the Holy Spirit will guide us. God has a way of revealing himself in and through all cultures and times.
Because of Philip’s personal history with Jesus, we may wonder how he could possibly say, “Show us the Father”. After all, Jesus, the way to the Father, was standing in front of him and James and all the other apostles. Plus, Jesus had just declared, “If you know me, then you will also know my Father”. But maybe we should go easy on Philip. Here we are, two thousand years and twenty-one councils later, and even we can have trouble understanding what God is up to!
Recall how Jesus responded to Philip. He said, “The Father who dwells in me is doing his works. Believe me . . . or else, believe because of the works themselves”. Jesus was encouraging him not to give up when he couldn’t understand, but to keep asking, seeking, and knocking for the answers.
We may not understand everything. We may feel as if we don’t understand anything. But we can shift our focus from what we cannot understand to what we can grasp.
For example, you may not be able to wrap your mind around how Jesus is present in the Eucharist under the appearance of bread and wine. But you can marvel that Eucharistic celebrations happen 350,000 times every day all over the world.
Perhaps you’re having a hard time understanding a certain passage in Scripture, and it is weighing on your mind. “Will I ever learn?” you ask yourself. But you can remember how deeply Jesus blesses childlike faith, because a childlike person has a heart that is uncomplicated and wise, loving, and trusting in God.
Maybe you’re struggling to understand why you don’t always feel God’s presence when you pray. But you can try to dwell on ways you have already seen his work. You might sense his peace during a moment of early-morning tranquility. Or just the opposite: you might discover his sense of humor in the chaos of a messy situation. Let his workings, both great and small, stir your faith! Today is the National Day of Prayer with its theme from Ephesians: Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.
Philip and James’ stories didn’t end with today’s Gospel reading. These two men went on to become two of the evangelists and martyrs who laid the very foundation of the Church. God was working then, even when they couldn’t see it. And he’s working now! The task of discipleship belongs to all of us. What will we say to those who ask us, "We would like to see Jesus?"
 (John 14:8)
 Ephesians 4:3