Jesus is the Only Way by Archbishop William Goh
CatholicNews Sunday May 19, 2019
Be warned of all kinds of New Age and even occult movements who profess to gain mystical knowledge and powers over life. Some want to import religious practices and even doctrines from other religions into the Catholic Tradition.
Jesus has said: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”
(Is 10-14, 8-10; Ps 40:7-11; Heb 10:4-10; Lk 1:26-38)
There are many people who do not know the way to fullness of life or their final destiny. They are searching and are often confused by the many philosophies of life. But they are looking for their identity, their origin, purpose in life and their final goal. In this sense, many people are like Thomas in the Gospel. Earlier on in the Gospel, Jesus was preparing the disciples for His imminent departure. He said to them, “`I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going’ Thomas said to him, `Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”‘ (Jn 14:3-5)
Then there are many who think they know the way. They offer to the world all kinds of answers, mostly from their human reasoning as they contemplate on the mysteries of life in the world. Some claim to have been inspired by God to convey His message to humanity. We have great religious leaders who have sought the Ultimate in life and today propose to humanity their way of finding meaning and purpose in life. Many of these religious leaders teach their people to do good, to walk according to the truth and in love and be compassionate.
Then we have those who apparently know the way but do not live and walk the way. Ironically, many of us fall into this category. Christ has been revealed to them as the Way, the Truth and the Life. He is the only way to the Father. Jesus said to Thomas, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” This is simply because Jesus is identified with the Father. “If you know me, you know my Father too. From this moment you know him and have seen him.”
Unfortunately, whilst many Catholics profess that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and the sole mediator to the Father, they are only paying lip service. Instead of giving full allegiance to the Lord and trusting in Him, they are involved in all kinds of New Age and even occult movements to gain mystical knowledge and powers over life. Some are involved in esoteric religions and try to combine faith in Christ with all these mysterious cults. It is a kind of syncretism, combining all the best doctrines and practices of every religion until the Catholic Faith is no longer faithful to what has been handed on to us.
Some want to import religious practices and even doctrines from other religions into the Catholic Tradition. They want to seek mystical union with God without passing through the humanity of Jesus. That is to say, they want to attain illumination without going through the purgative, ascetical stages of prayer before arriving at the illuminative stage as all masters of spirituality in the Church have taught us. If that were the case, Jesus is no longer the Way to the Father, since all can arrive at the Father without Jesus. We can no longer confess this truth about Jesus as the One mediator to the Father and the One who saves us from sins and redeems us. If by just sitting in meditation, contemplating on silence, one can arrive at God, we do not need any religions at all, much less Christianity or Jesus Christ.
Some Catholics are confusing fellow Catholics and bringing in traditions that threaten the purity of the truths of the Catholic Faith, all in the name of inculturation. Yet, the feast of St Philip and James reminds us that James himself was an advocate of inculturation when he was the head of the Church in Jerusalem. He helped to bring the Gentiles into the fold of Christianity by having the apostles decide on what is essential to the faith and what were Jewish practices and customs. Legitimate inculturation requires that we remain faithful to what we believe and who we believe. Illegitimate inculturation seeks to change and adapt the doctrines of our faith with other religions or philosophies.
Indeed, any belief or practice that dilutes our faith in Christ as the Son of God, as the Way, the Truth and the Life, as our only one Mediator and Saviour of the World is a betrayal of Christ. We must avoid reductionism in our understanding of Christ. St Paul wrote, “This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself as a ransom for all – this was attested at the right time.” (1 Tim 2:3-6) St Peter, addressing the Sanhedrin declared, “Let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. This Jesus is `the stone that was rejected by you, the builders; it has become the cornerstone.’ There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:10-12)
Hence, St Paul urges us to be firmly established in the Gospel as transmitted to us. “Brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, the gospel that you received and in which you are firmly established; because the gospel will save you only if you keep believing exactly what I preached to you – believing anything else will not lead to anything.”
Indeed, the Gospel is about Jesus who is the Christ, the Messiah who died for our sins in fulfilment of the divine plan of God for the salvation of humanity. By raising Jesus from the dead, and witnessed by the disciples, God established the fact that Jesus was truly what He claimed to be; that He was acting in the name and person of the Father. He is identical with God, sharing in His divine life and yet distinct from His Father. This was what Jesus meant when He told Philip who asked Him, “Lord, let us see the Father and then we shall be satisfied.” “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? To have seen me is to have seen the Father, so how can you say, `Let us see the Father?’ Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?”
Christian confession is not just in Jesus as our unique saviour of the world but that He is the Son of God because He is one with Him in everything. Jesus said, “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak as from myself: it is the Father, living in me, who is doing this work. You must believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; believe it on the evidence of this work, if for no other reason.” We do not need any other intermediaries to come to God. We do not need any new age mediators or techniques to arrive at illumination or find the truth to life, for Christ is the Truth and our Wisdom and our Life. Jesus for us is The Way!
Indeed, unless we are in union with Jesus, we cannot bear much fruit. If the Church lacks missionary and evangelical zeal, or if we are just a maintenance Church, or if we are not bearing fruit in our works, it is because we are not in union with the Lord. Jesus assures us when He said, “I tell you most solemnly, whoever believes in me will perform the same works as I do myself, he will perform even greater works, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask for in my name I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask for anything in my name, I will do it.” Unless we are in union with Jesus just as He was one with His Father, we cannot achieve great things for God because we have diluted and compromised our faith in Him as our Lord and Saviour. Reclaiming the Gospel is, therefore, the key to go out and proclaim the Good News to all creation. Only when we are fully established in the Gospel, knowing the way and walking the way, can we truly flourish in our faith and lead others to Him.
(The full version of Archbishop’s Daily Reflection was first published on May 3, 2019, Friday, Sts Philip and James, Apostles)