This mosaic of the "Face of Christ" is found in the exhibit, "He Became Flesh" in the crypt of the Basilica of San Lorenzo in Florence, Italy. In his reflection for the Fifth Sunday of Easter, Father Garry Koch reminds us of how "Jesus is the face of God." CNS photo
This mosaic of the "Face of Christ" is found in the exhibit, "He Became Flesh" in the crypt of the Basilica of San Lorenzo in Florence, Italy. In his reflection for the Fifth Sunday of Easter, Father Garry Koch reminds us of how "Jesus is the face of God." CNS photo
Gospel Reflection for May 10, 2020, Fifth Sunday of Easter

During this Easter Season, the Lord continues to speak words of comfort and consolation to his disciples and also to us. The disciples are certainly confused and uncertain about all that Jesus is saying on that fateful evening of the Last Supper. He is preparing them for his Passion and Death, and we know that they have been concerned about going to Jerusalem as they are well-aware that there are plots against his life. Now, after he has washed their feet and eaten with them, he gives them instructions as he prepares them for what it to come.

Yes, their hearts are troubled. They do not know what will happen to Jesus. They also do know what will happen to each of them. We cannot blame them for this uncertainty as, they like any of us, are concerned for their own well-being and that of their confreres.

It is Thomas who, at various important moments in Jesus’ ministry, directs the conversations with or about Jesus. We do not often reflect on his role other than as the one-who-doubted on the day of Resurrection. But it was he who interjected as they were about to depart for Bethany to raise Lazarus: “Let us also go to die with him.” Now, as Jesus prepares them for the paschal events to come, Thomas queries Jesus: “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Here he is beginning to show his uncertainty, and yet also his desire, as before, to follow Jesus. Thomas, like the others, does not know yet what this will mean.

Jesus responds clearly to the doubts of Thomas: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, then you will also know my father. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Jesus has shifted the conversation now from the immediate present to the father. Earlier in his ministry Jesus identified himself as the sheep-gate. Throughout his ministry, Jesus has spoken to them about eternal life. Now he instructs them that he is the way, the only way, to the father. He is about to lay down his life for them, for us, so that we might know the way to life.

Not yet satisfied, Philip asks Jesus to show them the father. He, too, sought reassurance that all that they had seen and heard from Jesus was true. Jesus reminds us that to see him is to see the father. Jesus is the face of God. Earlier, as Jesus responded to the direct question from the crowds at the Temple during the harvest festival, Jesus spoke very plainly: “The father and I are one.” Jesus has spoken to them clearly about who he is, though in doing so he stretched their expectations. When we see Jesus, we see God. Jesus always points to the Father. Jesus is more than the fulfillment of the Law and the prophets, he is the very embodiment of the Law and the Prophets. Jesus is the messiah, but he is more than the messiah, he is the very incarnation of God himself.

The disciples should now understand. His teaching to them should make sense. The questions of Thomas, Philip and the others should now be resolved. Oddly, Peter is silent. Even more puzzling is their avoidance of the question as to where Judas is now and why Jesus is explaining all of this to them in his absence. 

It must have been completely mind bending for them to imagine what Jesus was telling them. To think that this teacher, worker of great signs, master of all things is more than just that but is also, in a way mysterious and unique, also in reality the incarnation of the Divine LOGOS was entirely outside of any expectation of any Jewish person, much less this rag tag collection of disciples. Yet, that is what they heard. Maybe some of them began to make sense of this. In reality, it won’t make any real sense for a few more days. Even then, it will take a while.

Whether or not Jesus allayed their fears and made sense to them, it didn’t make their walk to the garden any easier. In the end, they still fled. They still cowered in fear in the upper room. All they knew – as all we know – is that we are to follow Jesus: the way that leads us to the Father: for Jesus shows us the very face of God.

Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.