The Way, the Truth and the Life

3 May 2006: Feast of Sts. Philip and James, Apostles
John 14, 6-14: The Way, the Truth and the Life

One of the greatest things that Jesus said which have become a very popular slogan is that “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” In fact, you see this in billboards and signs. But it is also the most misunderstood. Like love. Everyone desires it. Everyone pursues it. Everyone is willing to die for it. But it is not fully understood. And so, we ask the question: What does Jesus mean when He said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life”? Let me tackle the question using examples from my experience with those who are young.

First, the Way. The Jews talked much about the way in which men must walk and the ways of God. Isaiah said, “Your ears shall hear a word behind you saying, This is the way, walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21). The Jews knew the ways of God, but Jesus said, “I am the Way.” What did he mean?

As a moderator of a class in Xavier University High School five years ago, I had the chance to visit the homes of some of my students. The challenge is to find them. So I ask for directions. Usually, you are given something like this: “Take the first to the right, then turn left, count three blocks to your left, then take the road to the right, and then count three houses, until you find a mango tree. The house after the house with the mango tree is his house.” Chances are that we get lost before we get half-way.” But when, like Filipino hospitality, the person we asked for direction says, “Come, I’ll take you there. Sasamahan kita.” That person then is the way, and we cannot miss the house. That is what Jesus does for us. He does not only give directions, but takes our hand and leads us along the way so that we will not be lost. He does not only tell us about the way to God, He accompanies us because He is the Way.

When we are young, we always get lost: It is a time of countless mistakes, a million misses, a thousand hurts, innumerable bruises, deep pains. It is a time when we lose directions. It is a time when we do not know the way. It is a time when we simply are confused. Conversely, it is also the time when parents make countless mistakes, a million misses, a thousand hurts, innumerable bruises, deep pains. It is a time when parents lose directions, when parents do not know the way. Because when we are young, and when we take care of the young, the way is dark and dangerous.

And when Jesus said, “I am the Way,” he meant that “I will accompany you.” And maybe this is the reason why we get lost: We refuse to be accompanied; we shun another person’s hand; we would like to look for our home ourselves; we would like to find the way without another. We simply want the directions. That is why the young look for ways in magazines like Candy, Glamour, etc. There you find recipes “How to keep your boyfriends excited about you.” “Checklist in order to know that your partner loves you.” “Ten interesting ways to attract the opposite sex.” But we soon find out that that is not the best way. We discovered that we are at the losing end: we experience rejection, break-ups, and goodbyes even if we have faithfully followed the directions. Most of life’s truths is learned with someone around. And I guess this is what parents and friends should do: the best way is Jesus’ way. To have Jesus accompany us in the dark and dangerous way. To have our parents and friends take us by the hand and say, “Come. I’ll take you there.” And soon, you will find your way.

Second, the Truth. Many people have taught us the Truth: parents, teachers, friends, and mentors. Education teaches the truth. But none have embodied the Truth. Only one person has done that: Jesus. When one teaches about moral truth like parents, their character makes all the difference because it would lend credibility to the ones they teach. A selfish person who teaches the value of generosity, a proud individual who teaches the virtue of humility, a hateful person who teaches the beauty of love and an unethical teacher who teaches Ethics are bound to be ineffective. Moral truth cannot be conveyed solely in words; it must be conveyed by example. And thus parents, who disrespect their own parents, cannot teach their children to respect them. Truth and virtue is not learned in the classroom, but mostly imbibed from example. The truth we all know, even when we are young, are learned from what we see. There is an ad “Sa mga mata ng bata” that strikes me. A woman, who gets her plate full, with ice creaming dripping from her mouth, is witnessed by a child. If we teach proper etiquette but we do not do it, we cannot expect our young to follow suit.

Finally, Life. In the last analysis, what we are looking for is life. Our search for the proper road, our search for knowledge, and our search for our identity are not sought for their own sake: but what will make life worth living. When we fall in love, suddenly life finds meaning and direction. The dead parts of ourselves suddenly bursts with vigor. Love had brought life. That is what Jesus does. Life with Jesus is life indeed. And the proper way to love is the way Jesus loves. It is not what you read in magazines. A large part of loving is sacrifice; a large part of loving is experiencing the hurts and pains of relationships.

For the young, we believe that when we are enjoying ourselves, when “natutuwa ako sa kanya”, when roses and chocolates are given, when love texts are sent, our relationships are alive and kicking. But when we stop enjoying ourselves, when true colors show, when roses and chocolates cease to be given, when love texts are seldom sent, we say that our relationship should end. But love isn’t like that: when the romantic part of loving ends, we end the fantasy. When the fairy tales of our loving relationships either with friends or lovers end, we begin to see reality, the truth. That love is not all feelings. That is commitment. That commitment is a decision. That commitment is pain. That commitment is the cross on which Jesus was nailed. And today, on the Feast of Philip and James, the apostles, that commitment reached its peak on the Philip’s preaching Phrygia and James martyrdom in the hands of King Herod as reported in Acts 12: 2. That is the extent one can go in order to show much love. “To die for one’s friends.” And thus, to achieve eternal life. Jesus said, “The seed must die, in order for it to live.” So shall we who claim to be followers of Jesus, our Way, our Truth, our Life. Jesus who alone is the way to God. In him alone, we see what God is like; and he alone can lead us all into God’s presence without fear and without shame.

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