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Jesus for us: either 'the way' or 'in the way'

Archbishop Wenski's homily at Mass with archdiocesan employees

Archbishop Thomas Wenski preached this homily during midday Mass with archdiocesan employees at St. Martha Church, Miami Shores, March 22, 2019. The Mass concluded a morning of Lenten reflection at the Pastoral Center.

Shortly before his arrest and execution, Jesus told Thomas and the other Apostles: I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. This “I am” of Jesus is suggestive of the very name of God revealed to Moses. It does not allow one to take a neutral position before Jesus.

Either he is what he said he was – or either he is a fraud, a false prophet or he is a delusional lunatic. There is really no middle ground.

If Jesus is who he said he was, then he is truly the Way, the Truth and the Life. If he is who he said he was, then he does have the power to redeem us, to forgive our sins, to bring us to new life.

Then, there is nothing for us to do but to set off along the Way that is Jesus – to conform ourselves to the Truth that is Jesus and to embrace the Life that is Jesus.

If we don’t believe that Jesus is the Way, then he must be for us necessarily “in the way.” He will be in the “way,” as Joseph was in the way of his brothers who then sold him into slavery for 20 pieces of silver. He will be in the way, as he was in the way of those evil tenants in today’s Gospel parable. And as happened in Jerusalem two millennia ago, when Jesus was betrayed by one of his own and abandoned by the rest, he will be in the way of our own ambitions, our own pursuits; he will be in the way of our will, of our assertion of self. And, if he is in the way, then we will try to avoid him, or go around him, and when we can’t: then, like Joseph’s brothers, like the evil tenants, we will put him out of our way; then just like the authorities of his time, just like the crowds in Jerusalem, we will mock him, ridicule him and crucify him again.

Yet, “the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” In the Acts of the Apostles, the first followers of the Risen Lord were simply described as followers of the Way. And because they were of the way – and you can’t really be “of the Way” without yourself getting “in the way” as well — they too suffered ridicule, persecution and often martyrdom. Jesus would tell his disciples: if they hate you, know that they hated me before you.

From the Cross, Jesus opens his arms to embrace each one of us – in accepting his loving embrace, may we not be afraid of the demands of discipleship; may we never be ashamed of the crosses we may have to carry. Rather, we are to accept the crosses we find in our lives not as being “in our way” but as being “our way” to enter into the glory of Jesus, who in dying destroyed our death and in rising restored our life.

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