How many times have we been trying to carry out some kind of apostolate with a group of people or maybe one person — perhaps a friend, or a family member — and we’ve heard a variation of these words: “I believe that there’s something out there, but I don’t know what and I don’t think we can know.” “This Sunday’s Gospel, the Fifth of Easter, proposes a twofold commandment of faith: to believe in God and to believe in Jesus. In fact, the Lord said to His disciples: ‘Believe in God, believe also in me,’ (John 14:1)… [Jesus] has shown us the face of God, which is love: God can be seen, He is visible in Christ,” (Pope Benedict XVI).
How can we relate to a God Who is wholly “other” than we are. There’s nothing that we share with Him on the same level. We cannot even correctly say that there is a God “out there” since God does not occupy any space — He’s an “incorporeal” being, which means He occupies no space at all. Yet, at the same time, He is everywhere — omnipresent. It can be quite a headache to think about, let alone strive to enter into a relationship with this being who wants to make us His children. Perhaps these words might finally ring true for once: “We have nothing in common!” But yet, in His infinite wisdom, God knows this and so becomes one of us; He takes on our human nature and, as Pope Benedict XVI said above, He shows us His face. Jesus.
There’s a lot that I could talk about with such a rich Gospel as this Sunday’s (such is the case with St John’s Gospel entirely) but I’ll focus on the main part.
Jesus makes things explicit in this Gospel. “Trust in God still, and trust in me” (from the original Greek, “trust” can also be translated as “believe”), says Jesus at the beginning of our Gospel passage. It is necessary to believe in God; absolutely! But if that’s all we do, we’ll be no better off than our friend at the beginning of this reflection. What’s more, we’ll have hundreds of religions we could fit in to and no way to figure out which. But Jesus takes us one step further: “and believe in me,” (emphasis added).
God chose to make things less ambiguous, more clear, less of this “shooting in the dark.” St John makes this clear in one of his epistles. It’s actually the first thing he writes at the beginning of his first pastoral letter. It’s also the defining characteristic of Christianity. He says, “We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life,” (1 John 1:1; emphasis added). Many people have confessed from the beginning that this man, Jesus, was also God Himself and many of them died for it, including Jesus. But Jesus rose from the dead to new life, and so will all those who died confessing it.
St Thomas, however, asks Jesus the obvious question for us earthly folks who are not really understanding the whole “heaven-meets-earth thing.” “Lord, we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus responds to Him with a groundbreaking response that will set Christianity apart forever: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” Many religious teachers have claimed to have found a way but none of them, with any kind of resurrection, like Jesus, to back it up, have said “I am the Way.” What’s more, they definitely never added, “and no one can come to the Father except through me!” (Emphasis added).
Since becoming a father myself, I have understood this a lot more. It’s quite simple but also simply missed. God is God. Right. But to call God “Father” is a whole new ball game. It’s half the reason some Muslims want to kill us (the other reason is the whole “God became man thing,” which by the way, we are still confessing at the cost of our lives). Think about me now. I am a man; a human. Yes. But my fatherhood only came about at the exact same moment that my first son Álvaro came into existence. The only way to make me your father, then, which is what “coming to the Father” actually means, is to become my son. Now it makes sense, I think. We cannot come to the Father except through the Son; “through Christ our Lord” as we say so often.
But what does this mean; through Christ our Lord? How can we go through the Son? Well, because of the Son’s divinity and humanity, He bridges the gap between both in Himself by drawing all men to Himself (cf. John 12:32). Let me use St Augustine’s words to state this clearly. After some converts to Catholicism were just baptised, he says to them: “Let us rejoice then and give thanks that we have become not only Christians, but Christ himself. Do you understand and grasp, brethren, God’s grace toward us? Marvel and rejoice: we have become Christ!” (CCC 795; emphasis added).
This is the whole point of the realism of the Eucharist, “My Flesh is food indeed and my Blood is drink indeed” (John 6:55). As St Augustine also said referring to the Holy Eucharist “You are what you eat!” The food that I eat, eventually becomes part of my body (this is called “assimilation”), and what doesn’t become part of me, goes out another way. But with the Eucharist, the converse also happens: we become part of His body. He assimilates us into His own body. And thus, united to Him so “really,” body and soul, we are united to His divinity through His humanity and thus we are united to the Blessed Trinity and we “become partakers of the divine nature,” (2 Peter 1:4). In fact, the Prayer Over the Offerings (the prayer right after the people say “May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands…”) for this Sunday states it clearly too: “O God, who by the wonderful exchange effected in this sacrifice (the Eucharist) have made us partakers of the one supreme Godhead…”
Our Gospel this Sunday takes place in the context of the Last Supper. In Luke’s narrative of this event Jesus holds His own precious Blood in His own hands and says, “This chalice which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood,” (Luke 22:20). The New Covenant! It’s the only time that Jesus ever utters these words. Only once, and with clear reference to the Eucharist. This tells us that, to make us share in His humanity so that we can share in the Trinity’s divinity, is the very reason He came and the fulfilment of His entire missio (mission). It’s scandalous!
Through the Sacraments of the Church, we become Christ Himself. This is why and how we can come to the Father: as Sons in Christ Jesus, “through Christ our Lord.”
See you next week on Seeking the Word!
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