I was on the internet yesterday checking driving directions to the location of the retreat center I will be visiting next week. It was astonishing how quickly I came to know not only how to get there but also how many miles I would travel depending on which of two possible routes I take (with a map available for each) and how long (to the minute!) it would take to arrive at my destination – including the indication of how dense the traffic might be. Although this service of mapquest – or google maps or another site – is quite efficient, there was a tiny twinge of sadness associated with the exercise. I have always loved maps and figuring out the best way to reach a destination was always satisfying for me. No matter. The important thing is arriving at the destination, I suppose, even though the journey itself can be engaging and instructive if sometimes confusing.
The gospel for today finds the disciples confounded by what sounds like a riddle as Jesus prepared for his departure and was giving them instructions for how they were to live going forward. (JN 14:1-6) First he talks of going away. That in itself would be anxiety-producing enough, I suspect, for those who had been following him and been through the recent events with him. He talks about many rooms in his Father’s house and my guess is that they are confused because they were taking his words literally while he was speaking in another language! Thomas, who always needed to “see” the truth of things, seems the most frustrated when Jesus tells them they already know the way to where he’s going. I feel for Thomas when he blurts out, “Master, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way!” I doubt it helped when Jesus answered, “I am the way.”
Perhaps we need to think ahead to the time after Pentecost to pick up the story of how the disciples followed the way, solving the riddle of that confusing speech of Jesus. Examples abound, as in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles for today (ACTS 13:26-33). My guess is that the understanding came variously and perhaps slowly for some – not always like the shocking event of Paul’s conversion. I might liken it to my trip. I read the directions and was familiar with the highway route but it will take the experience of driving there myself to truly get the whole picture and be comfortable with the way. My hope is that, in this beautiful season of flowering trees and the mountainous region of Pennsylvania that I will be traversing, I will be stunned one more time at the beauty and grateful for the opportunity of making the trip. And upon arrival I look forward to days of deepening my understanding of what it means to walk the path of discipleship.