And he said, "For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by my Father." (John 6:65)
Jesus said to him, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)
One of the sometimes confusing aspects of St. John's Gospel is what some logicians would call his circular reasoning. The two quotations that I have cited above are an example. In chapter six and from the passage of St. John's Gospel which we proclaim in today's Eucharist, Jesus states that the Father is the only means of access to Jesus. In chapter fourteen he is very forthright in claiming that access to God is available only through Him.
We must always keep in mind when reading or praying with St. John's Gospel the fact that the evangelist puts more words in the mouth of Jesus than any of the other evangelists of the synoptic Gospels. Appearing very late in the apostolic era, this Gospel is also the furthest away from the Christ event chronologically speaking. It would have taken a prodigious memory to remember all these words. Consequently, most Scripture scholars agree that much of what Jesus has to say in the fourth Gospel cannot be considered the "ipsissima verba," the "actual words" of Jesus. Rather the discourses of St. John's Gospel are more probably the product of the reflections of the early Christian community upon their experience of Jesus and his words. These words reveal how the early Church came to recognize that Jesus is the Incarnate Word of God, God in human flesh.
Some of the reflection of the early Christian community has led the Church to that branch of theology which we call "soteriology." Soteriology is the study of how God reconciles the separation that existed between God and the human family after the fall of Adam. As I have commented before, the fall of Adam destroyed the access that Adam had to God in the Garden of Eden. Adam was no longer able to walk through the garden with God to enjoy the evening breezes. Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden because of that lost access. Jesus has regained it for us.
By becoming one of us, God has made it possible for us to walk with God again. Because Jesus and God are One, we have access to both the Father and the Son in the person of Jesus. So while it may seem contradictory or a product of circular reasoning, we can rely on the truth of these statements. We come to Jesus as people sent by the Father. We gain access to the Father through the person of Jesus. When we follow him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life, we will find ourselves in the presence of God just as Adam was at the dawn of creation.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator