5th Sunday of Easter Year A
May 18, 2014
GOING SOME PLACE, SOMEHOW?
WHAT ABOUT “GOING TO THE FATHER?”
We Filipinos are generally not good at giving directions. Go anywhere in the country; ask anyone to tell you how to get to a place, and more often than not, the person would tell you that it’s not too far from where you are, at times even using the lips to point towards a particular direction. You asked for directions and they tell you it’s not too far off.
I remember two hard to forget experiences about direction-giving, both of which happened abroad. Those two separate experiences show that is easier to show rather than to tell people where to go. I was still in my elementary French lessons then, many years ago. I asked a Parisian man where Rue des Pyrenees was, in my halting French. He told me to follow him, and he led me right next to the gate of the building. In Reno, Nevada, we were driving one very cold autumn night looking for Incline Village where my siblings and I were supposed to have been billeted. We asked the police who were cruising by and who probably realized we were going around in circles. These were the words of the police officer: “Follow me.”
It is one thing to tell people where to go. It is quite another to show people how to get there. It is one thing, too, to tell people one possible way among many. It is quite another to show the one and only way.
In today’s gospel passage, two disciples were kind of lost. Thomas asked the Lord: “How can we know the way?” Philip, for his part, needed something more substantial: “Show us the Father!” In a way, Thomas echoed the traditional manner of asking for directions: “Tell us!” In contrast, Philip asked for a “show-and-tell.”
And this is where the answer of the Lord in both cases hits the nail right on the head, as they say. He did not tell. He did not give them a map. He did not give them a menu from which to choose. He did not give them a GPS. No … he pointed to himself as the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
When I was a student, not very long ago (now that’s an understatement!), I didn’t appreciate that teachers, when they were asked by students to explain, would just repeat what they said earlier, and students would be more perplexed than ever. But good teachers generally showed with their empathic and patient listening and interacting, what it meant to be a real teacher, not just a lecturer. Lecturers speak of things outside of themselves. Teachers and mentors showed with their lives and their persons what it means to become the answers their students are searching for. They don’t tell; they show. They don’t give directions; they accompany.
Nowadays, people are searching for answers more than ever. It does not help any that for most of their questions, google comes to the rescue, and gives thousands of lists from which to select. For one who loves to dabble at cooking like myself, even recipes come in different forms, styles, twists, and methods of cooking. One recipe is just one among many. For many of us, faith in God is one among many options, and being Catholic, and acting like one almost seems to be optional. One can still believe in God, and still in the same vein, reject teachings that one does not like. Religion, they say, will not save anyone, but faith in God does. The only problem is that faith is reduced to a shallow sentimentalism that makes no demands, makes no rules, and simply makes one feel good and smug about being sort of spiritual.
Today, the Lord’s teachings are a good reminder for all of us. He is not just a teacher, but a mentor. He is not one who tells, but one who shows. And he declares himself not one among many possible ways, but the one WAY, the one TRUTH, the one LIFE.
And he does not just lead us to an undefined destination. He leads us to the Father, because “I am going to the Father.”