For a long time I have been preoccupied with the realization that in the United States we do not have a theological foundation for our spirituality. We are learning more and more about our Founder and the charism, but the lens through which we are receiving this information remains a catechetical one. It lacks the depth, breadth, and nuance necessary to understand accurately and authentically the thought of the Founder.
The Superior General of the Society of St. Paul has said on numerous occasions in public meetings, that we need to re-read our Founder with the theological categories of Vatican II. This “mandate” (as I have felt it to be) was a mystery to me, until I was privileged to be able to work through this material contained in this paper. I see this paper as the beginning, just a simple beginning, of a conversation on an accessible level that aims at creating a theologically renewed understanding of the charism that will be robust enough to enter into the struggles of inculturation in the United States.
The scope of this paper is to look at the charismatic phrase, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” within the scriptural context of the gospel of John in which it first appears. This paper intends to “reboot” our understanding of this important trinomial in the gospel of John, asking the questions: What did it mean to John? What is revealed about this phrase by looking at the rest of the gospel of John? Because the Founder also insisted that we return to the sources of the Fathers of the Church, Augustine, Origen, and Gregory of Nyssa also help us investigate the wealth of this self-definition on the part of Jesus. In fact, their words provide the intoxication and revelry characteristic of persons completely overtaken by the Mystery. Finally contemporary theology is called forth to assist us in looking at this charismatic-spiritual touchstone in a manner by which it can speak realistically and meaningfully to the people of our times.
When we are asked on the spur of the moment about who Jesus is for us, we speak of Jesus as the way to be followed, the truth to be believed and the life to be lived (which is, by the way, a quote from the Imitation of Christ). That is, we speak of Jesus in isolation from the Trinity, from Salvation History, from Redemption, from the Incarnation, from Eschatology, from the Eucharist, from Pneumatology—all of which are present in the gospel of John and form the context for understanding who the Johannine Jesus is. We can ask ourselves, “Why did Alberione not choose a quote from Luke, or Matthew, or Mark?” “Why didn’t he give us the image of the Prodigal Father?” “Why specifically did he use John’s gospel?” “What was the Founder trying to tell us about Jesus, by giving us Jn 14.6 as the core of our spirituality?”
by Sr. Kathryn J. Hermes, FSP