During the Easter Season we hear St. John’s Gospel at our Masses a lot, both Sundays and Weekdays. We remember that the focus of Lent and Easter is the Triduum, the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ. Of the four gospels St John gives us the most extensive description of that time. Just take the Last Supper as an example, Matthew, Mark, and Luke write only about a page of description (Matthew 26:17 – 29, Mark 14:12 – 25, Luke 22:7 – 38). St. John gives us five chapters (John 13 – 17). St. John gives us the account of Christ washing the feet of the apostles, Christ’s reference to the Church as His body, “I am the vine you are the branches.” (John 15:5) and the monumental “Priestly Prayer of Christ” (John 17).
There is a lot of material in St. John’s Last Supper record and all of it is worth our study. Most of the material is complex and confusing, both to modern readers and the Apostles. They couldn’t really get going until Pentecost fifty days later when they received the Holy Spirit who, as Christ had promised, “will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26). A great, and amusing, example of the perplexity of the apostles is the statement of Christ, (paraphrasing John 14:3 – 5), I am going to prepare a place for you…where I am going you know the way. St Thomas basically answers, huh (“we do not know where you are going how can we know the way?” John 14:5).
Like most of Jesus’ statements, His response is short but packed with meaning, “I am the way the truth and the life…” (John 14:6). Before we think about touching the surface of the profound meaning here, I want to recall the context. This is the Last Supper. Christ is in the process of instituting the Eucharist, His enduring presence in the world. Christ is speaking these words under the shadow of the Cross, His sacrifice by which we are offered forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with God. These words are a statement of identity. Jesus Christ is truly human and can therefor offer His life on our behalf. He is also the Divine Word, consubstantial with the Father and Holy Spirit so that His offering is acceptable. In the brief phrase of John 14:6 Christ tells us that He is not simple speaking the truth, He IS the Truth. He is not just showing us the way He IS the Way. Christ gave us life but more fundamentally He IS Life.
As with most of sacred scripture there is a lot to ponder here, but, as a drastic simplification, Christ came to give us fulfillment. He is still here with us to help and guide us. Remember the context of the gospel we are considering. This is the Last Supper where Christ establishes His enduring presence in the Mass. We need to realize that we have access to a profound relationship with God if we accept the Truth, follow the Way, and live the Life He is.