What does it mean if Jesus is “the” Way?

“Sacred Heart of Jesus” (detail) by Chambers


“There was a man on this earth 2000 years ago named Jesus.  And that man made some pretty bold statements.”


Today’s Gospel has challenging words for our relativistic culture. It begins with a very comforting message from Christ:

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.
You have faith in God; have faith also in me.
In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places.
If there were not,
would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?
And if I go and prepare a place for you,
I will come back again and take you to myself,
so that where I am you also may be.
Where I am going you know the way.”

But then comes the challenge.

“Thomas said to him,
‘Master, we do not know where you are going;
how can we know the way?’
Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.’”

We all want to go to heaven someday—and we all want our family members, friends, and neighbors to join us there. But many of us, myself included, can be reluctant at times to share the Gospel. Do we really believe Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life? If so, then we need to be evangelizing. We need to be telling the beautiful, and personal, story of Jesus Christ.

The Gospel is good news.

What would we do if we just read the best book?  Wouldn’t we tell a friend about it?  What about if we just discovered the most delicious new restaurant, with fantastic and satisfying dishes and a great atmosphere?  Unless we were selfish and didn’t want anyone to know about it… wouldn’t we tell our friends?  Have you ever seen a movie where you leave the theatre and just want to tell everyone we know to go see it for themselves? Is it because we think we’re better than everyone else, or because we want them to feel bad they haven’t seen it?

Of course not. We want to share it. Why? Because it’s good and we want others to experience the book, the restaurant, or the movie.

So why don’t we tell people about the Faith?  Why aren’t we rushing out to make sure everyone knows the Gospel?  Do we, deep down, not think it’s good news? Do we not think our friends will benefit from hearing the Truth?

“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

I am the Life! Think of that. Don’t we want our friends, our relatives – everyone we meet – to have that life?

It’s your responsibility

Like it or not, when you’re baptized, you’re given the commission to spread the Gospel. The last thing Christ told his Apostles before He ascended was “Go, make disciples of all nations!”  He didn’t say, “Go take care of yourselves and don’t worry about anyone else!”  No – he sent them out.  The sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation are the beginning – and they’re about being sent out to bring others Christ.  It’s the call of our baptism to bring others into Christ’s Body, the Church.

In his first letter St. Peter reminds us, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were no people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Pt 2:9-10). We have been given all this when we were anointed in the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. God has made you His own.  Baptism incorporates us into Christ and His Church, and Confirmation “incorporates us more firmly into Christ, strengthens our bond with the Church, associates us more closely with her mission, and helps us bear witness to the Christian faith in words accompanied by deeds.” (CCC 1316)

Uh oh – what was that last part?  Helps us bear witness to the Christian faith. There is a great responsibility – and a great privilege – to “declare the wonderful deeds” of God and to share with others the great gifts we have been given.

Saint John Paul II wrote a beautiful document called Christifideles laici about our mission as lay people. In it, the Holy Father quotes other Church documents, such as Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium, and says that there’s a unique character in our vocation as lay people: “which is in a special way to ‘seek the Kingdom of God by engaging in temporal affairs and ordering them according to the plan of God.”

“The term ‘lay faithful,’” the Church clarifies, “ is here understood to mean all the faithful except those in Holy Orders and those who belong to a religious state sanctioned by the Church. Through Baptism the lay faithful are made one body with Christ and are established among the People of God. They are in their own way made sharers in the priestly, prophetic and kingly office of Christ. They carry out their own part in the mission of the whole Christian people with respect to the Church and the world.”

We have the responsibility to seek the Kingdom of God in temporal affairs and to order the things of earth – our daily activities, the people we encounter in our daily grind of life – to the Plan of God. Christ called us to be laborers in His vineyard!  And we can do this in ways that priests and religious cannot.

“We” and Jesus

It’s not about me and Jesus.  Sure, we need a personal relationship with Jesus. But it’s not just about getting to heaven yourself.  You’re baptized into the Church, into the Body of Christ, and it’s a family affair. Your family, your neighbors, your coworkers, the parents at your child’s school: we’re a community. And you need to help them get to heaven, too.

“Proselytizing” has a bad connotation these days.  I think much of it comes from the fact that our world doesn’t want to say we need to evangelize.  If we say that, then we must be judging the people we’re evangelizing. We must be saying that there’s something wrong with those people or they’re not as good as we are.

I don’t think that’s what we’re saying. Rather, we are saying that there was a man on this earth 2000 years ago named Jesus.  And that man made some pretty bold statements.

Either that man was speaking the truth and he was Who he said he was: God… Or he was insane.

There’s no middle ground.

And if what He said was true, we need to listen to what He said.

“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

It seems like we often preach today – maybe not with our words, but with our actions – that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life… unless you’ve found another way, truth, and life.

But that’s not what He said. And if you really believe He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life… don’t you want to tell people about it?


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About the Author

Joannie Watson

Joan Watson was born and raised in Lafayette, Indiana, but college and graduate school took her to Virginia, Ohio, and Rome. After graduating from Christendom College with a B.A. in History and Franciscan University with a M.A. in Theology, she moved to Nashville, Tennessee to be part of the explosion of Catholic culture in the middle of the Bible Belt.

She has been blessed to work for Dr. Scott Hahn at the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology and the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia at Aquinas College. She is presently the Director of Adult Formation for the Diocese of Nashville. She also serves as the Associate Editor of Integrated Catholic Life.

When she’s not testing the culinary exploits of new restaurants or catching up on the latest BBC miniseries, she’s FaceTiming with her eight nephews and nieces and enjoying her role as coolest aunt. She likes gelato, bourbon, and the color orange.

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