Living a truly Christian life
April 28, 2002

Al Cariño
Reproduced with Permission

For some of us, living the Christian life is just a matter of following a set of rules which are more or less strict and then we will qualify to enter a beautiful place called heaven. If we do so, we are just like businessmen who look at God as a Divine Bookkeeper Who records all our deeds. If at the end of our life, we do more good works than bad, then we will go to heaven. But if we do more bad works than good, then we will go to hell. Thus the only thing that matters is the bottom line.

A couple of years ago, the husband of my first cousin died. Then a year later, another first cousin who was married to a lovely woman also died. Both couples had been married for a long time and were very close to their respective spouses. In fact, they were like Siamese twins: where one was, the other was there also. Thus they appeared inconsolable when their husbands died. At their respective funerals over which I presided, both widows bluntly expressed their loss to me thus: "How can I go on living without him?"

Some people avoid using the word "dying" to describe a person's passage from life to death. Instead, they use the phrase "passing away." At first glance, this appears like a refusal to accept the reality of death. But for us Christians, the term "passing away" is an excellent choice. "Dying" implies the end of everything while "passing away" indicates a journey into a new life.

The gospel reading (Jn. 14: 1-14) is the first part of Jesus' three farewell discourses. He was then preparing His disciples for the time when His "passing away" or more precisely, His "passing over," would come. He tells them the purpose for this: "I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be."

At this, Thomas, the apostle who always wanted things he did not understand clarified, asked, "Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?" To which Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Short as this response is, Jesus tells us a very profound truth about Himself and His mission and how we are to live our life with Him.

Note that Jesus said "I am the way" and not "I have a way." Because He was the Way, he could tell His apostles at the start of His public life, "Come, follow me!" The apostles did and they realized that following Him meant going with Him from village to village, listening to and praying with Him, and being sent on missions. It also meant following Him into His passion and death. Finally, it meant rising with Him at His resurrection. And before Jesus "passed over" to His Father, He tasked His apostles with the same mission, specifically instructing them to proclaim the redemption He gifted us with to all peoples.

"I am the Truth." Jesus, the one who walked the road of Palestine, preached, did many wonders and ate with sinners, is God's gift of His true self to us. As God revealed His true self to Jesus, we look up to Jesus to reveal God to us. In other words, Jesus became human precisely so that we might see in Him the human face of God. Thus when Philip said to Jesus, "Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us," Jesus responded, "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father" (Jn. 14:9). Why? Because "The Father and I are one" (Jn. 10:30). Thus the truth about Jesus is that He is the revelation of the Father as love, goodness, mercy, forgiveness and joy combined!

"I am the Life." At the death of Lazarus, Jesus said to Martha, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die." When we believe in Jesus, we find life. More, He becomes our life.

In short, we can go to the Father Who is the Truth and the Life only through Jesus -- the Way: "No one comes to the Father except through me." Then Jesus, Who is in the Father and the Father Who is in Jesus and the Spirit that inseparably binds them, will establish their dwelling within us.

Although in the beginning it is difficult to understand much more to live this mysterious reality, with time, we may eventually be able to do so. And it is only in truly living the Christian life, each in our own unique way because each of us is unique, that we will be able to reach our own truth, namely, that living in union with Jesus is the only way to arrive at our true life.

What living the Christian life is really all about is living with Jesus in faith and not just having a positive balance in the Divine Bookkeepers' books. It is to make the Truth and the Life -- the Father Himself -- really ours by following Jesus who is the Way.