by Father Mike Stubbs
The pilgrims’ path to the shrine of St. James in Santiago de Compostela is often referred to in Spanish as the “Camino,” that is to say, “the way.”
Once, several years ago, while walking that pilgrim path, I stopped inside a church and saw a huge banner with the image of Christ on it. At the bottom of it were emblazoned the words: “Yo soy el Camino” —that is to say, “I am the way.” It was a dramatic reminder of the true purpose of the pilgrimage we were engaged in.
We also hear those same words in Sunday’s Gospel reading, Jn 14:1-12. Jesus is speaking to the disciples about his impending departure. The apostle Thomas asks him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?”
In response, Jesus tells him: “I am the way and the truth and the life.”
It is significant that the early Christians spoke of “the way,” rather than “religion” or “doctrine.” This term appears several times in the Acts of the Apostles: 18:25; 18:26; 19:9; 19:23; 22:4; 24:14; and 24:22. They spoke in this way because their faith in Jesus Christ inspired them to a particular conduct of life. It was not merely head knowledge but, rather, a comprehensive approach to life.
This use of walking as a metaphor for a manner of life is grounded in Old Testament texts. For example, we hear in Psalm 119: 1, 3: “Happy those whose way is blameless, who walk by the teaching of the Lord. . . . They do no wrong; they walk in God’s ways.”
In the days before the automobile, when the majority of people traveled on foot, this metaphor would have made more of an impact than it does now. In this present age, even pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela rely heavily on air, train and bus travel to arrive at their destination.
Nonetheless, this image of “the way” can still resonate with meaning for us. The Lord who traveled on foot to the towns and villages of Galilee, who invited his disciples to follow him as he walked along the Sea of Galilee, who took up the cross to carry it to Calvary, still stands as the best way for us to arrive at eternal life.
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
By adhering to Jesus, we will arrive there.