A woman left home early one morning to drive to downtown Milwaukee. She had an interview for a job she valued highly and she wanted to be on time. But traffic was very heavy that morning, and there was a lot of road repair, so she was running late. She finally arrived at her destination but could find no place to park. She kept circling the block hoping a parking spot would open up. Her dashboard clock warned her she was down to her very last minute. In desperation, she prayed: "Dear God, if you give me a parking place RIGHT NOW, I promise to go to church every Sunday for the rest of my life!" Just then, she noticed an empty parking spot, pulled in and shouted "Never mind!"
That's the way we often go through life, isn't it? We try striking bargains with God. We will do this for God if God does that for us! Of course that's unworthy of us, and unworthy of God, since Abba God already loves us unconditionally, always wants what is best for us, and refuses to be manipulated by petty bargaining. Besides, an infinitely wise God knows we seldom if ever keep our side of the bargain.
There is another way, a different way to travel through life. We find it in today's Gospel: the scene is the Upper Room at a final supper Jesus shares with his friends. He realizes what lies ahead, and he knows this is his last opportunity to speak heart-to-heart with those he deeply loves. Jesus tells them he is going ahead to prepare a place for them, and that God is awaiting them there. But Thomas and Phillip aren't buying it. Thomas wants to know the way to get to the place where Jesus is going, this house with plenty of room, and Phillip wants to know what God looks like.
The answers come quickly. Jesus says he is the way. His is the road we travel. We need only to follow his footsteps to get there, to discover his kingdom and our home. His footsteps are marked clearly; they are the markers of Jesus' own life: a raised consciousness of Abba God, prayerfulness, forgiveness even of ones enemies, compassion for all, a grateful heart, an unconventional wisdom, a willingness to speak truth to people in authority, a disregard for petty rules that make no sense, and a peaceful spirit that clashes with the violence all around him. This is the road Jesus travels, and he invites his Tablemates both then and now to walk it with him.
As to Phillip's question: what does God look like? Jesus answers with some frustration: "Phillip, You've been with me all this time and you still don't understand? See me and you see God. The words I speak aren't my words. I don't make them up on my own. Abba God is within me crafting each word carefully."
Yes, we can continue striking bargains with God at difficult times in our lives or we can accept Jesus' invitation to walk his way, his path to find our true home, a home where Abba God awaits us. So do we accept Jesus' invitation, or do we dismiss it? Choices can be so demanding at times, can't they?