Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, “Where are you going?” But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will prove the world wrong about sin and righteousness and judgement: about sin, because they do not believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will see me no longer; about judgement, because the ruler of this world has been condemned.’
Jesus said to his disciples: yet none of you asks me, “Where are you going?”
Can you remember how your journey of faith as a Christian began? Depending on your age and social background, there will be many different answers to that question. For me, as with many of my generation, I began my life in the church as a chorister singing a well-established repertoire of hymns, psalms, canticles and anthems as an enhancement to the worship of others. The choir took pride in its ‘performance’ and its ‘attention to detail’. The choir was seen as an essential feature of church life and was celebrated for its ‘beautiful sound’. As a chorister I sang of Jesus Christ, I heard the words of the liturgy which honoured Jesus Christ, and I heard the words of Jesus Christ proclaimed and explained on a regular basis. But … was this really the beginning of a journey of faith? Whether we started out as choristers, or whether we were loyal members of the Sunday School, or whether we just sat alongside others because that was the ‘right’ thing to do on a Sunday, many journeys of faith began as a duty rather than as a matter of joyous commitment. Jesus’ words in today’s reading encourages us to reflect on the course of our personal journeys of faith, whether they have been long or short.
Many of us picked up our Christianity without any feeling of the need to exert ourselves. The process was one of osmosis. A process through which we gradually absorbed and assimilated the words of the gospel into our lives. Our adult selves began going to church because it was something we had done as youngsters. We connected with the notion that we live in a ‘Christian society’ and thus we joined the dots and began to call ourselves ‘Christians’. Then, as we became rooted in our local church communities we became increasingly resistant to anything being changed because it presented a challenge to the ‘certainty’ that had been drilled into us in our youth.
In today’s reading we are being invited, by Jesus himself, to reflect upon this situation. Jesus journeyed with and taught his disciples. As the journey of Jesus’ life was drawing towards its end, he observed that his disciples had accepted his teaching without question. He observed that their sorrow at his imminent departure from this world was based on his words, rather than on true engagement with his message. Today, Jesus points the finger at those whose faith is simply a matter of habit and tradition.
As far as the Jewish religious authorities were concerned, Jesus had broken all the rules. Jesus had advocated change in its most profound and far-reaching form. So, with that as our model, why do we cling on to the past and fail to see the need for the vitality and joy of the Christian message in today’s world? Why do we seek to root our faith in times long past and speak in a way that means very little, if anything, to those amongst whom we live?
The Christian message is robust and can easily be communicated in a living and relevant way without any fear of its being compromised. Despite our ‘need’ to wrap it up carefully and preserve it as though it were an artefact in a museum, it is desperate to break out and to be shared with those amongst whom we live today.
Let us pray for minds that ask Jesus not only, ‘Where are you going?’, but also, ‘How might we share that journey with you?’
Let us pray that we might share Christ’s mission today and every day.